It seems you can’t watch TV these days without seeing a commercial about filing your income tax return. Maybe that’s why opening day of the United Way-funded VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) program at Community Action was completely booked. Clients filled all 14 available appointments at Community Action, where staff expects to complete over 200 returns in Logan County for free between now and April.
“We’re able to help the clients who really need it the most,” said Sara Boling, a Financial Services Assistant with Community Action Organization. “They really can’t afford to pay $200 to $300 to have someone prepare their taxes.”
VITA is designed to help low-income families who could use a boost to maximize their tax benefits. According to the IRS, of the 21,450 federal income tax returns filed in Logan County in 2013, only 1.5% filed for free. The average cost was $260 per return.
With the help of a modest United Way grant last year, VITA prepared 76 tax returns, saving clients $19,836 in preparation fees and refunding an average of $1,672. Now, as a new United Way Funded Agency receiving $7,000 this year, Community Action is operating as a full tax site, accepting appointments every Tuesday between 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Households at or below 150% of the federal poverty level qualify.
“It’s free,” said John Scholz of Quincy, a Community Action client referred to VITA for a first-day appointment. “That’s what I like about it. And they’re good people.”
The elderly, people with disabilities and limited English speaking taxpayers are also prime VITA recipients.
“Most senior citizens don’t get much money back,” said Shelley Harmon, Logan County manager at Community Action Organization. “But one woman last year received her lump sum and was going to use it to replace a household appliance. When you have limited income, if you get that refund and don’t have to pay it right back to the person who prepared your taxes, you can use it for something you need.”
“Most clients are getting money back and using it to pay their bills or catch up on their rent,” said Boling. “They’re not blowing it on new TV’s.”
Volunteers can help administer the program and help clients prepare their returns. Those interested would be trained, certified online by the IRS, and sign an agreement to adhere to the highest ethical standards.
For more information about VITA or to make an appointment, please contact Community Action Organization at (937) 404-9203.
It’s the mission of United Way of Logan County to facilitate successful agency partnerships that enable a safe, healthy, and caring community. More than just a fundraiser, United Way collaborates with businesses, non-profits, government, and civic organizations to help meet the social service needs of the community.
For more information, visit www.uwlogan.org or call (937) 592-2886.
Submitted by United Way of Logan County.