WUFT News

A little less taxing: VITA offers free filing services

By on April 11th, 2013

When Charmaine Haugen complained to a friend about the cost of tax filing service, she recommended Haugen try the VITA program. It offers free filing services to anyone earning less than $51,000 per year.

Haugen, a substitute teacher and education student at Sante Fe Community College, was more satisfied with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program than the private accountant she previously used.

“After they did my taxes, I wanted to call up and say ‘Is there any way I could amend my taxes from two years ago?’” she said.

The VITA program is sponsored by the Internal Revenue Service. The national program is staffed by local volunteers, who help qualifying people fill out their tax forms. The local initiative is run by the United Way of North Central Florida.

The United Way of North Central Florida has been partnered with VITA since 2010. Last year, the United Way of North Central Florida filed 1,293 tax returns, resulting in more than $1,000,000 in refunds.

This year, the United Way of North Central Florida is operating more than 17 sites across Alachua, Bradford, Dixie, Gilchrist, Levy and Union counties, said Sarah Coulson, United Way of North Central Florida communication specialist.

With the volunteers’ help, people apply for tax credits such as earned income tax credit, the only fully refundable credit. Less than 60 percent of the people who qualify actually benefit from it.

One of VITA’s goals is to increase that number, said Michael Gutter, who coordinates the program in IFAS extension offices.

“We really want to make sure that low-income families can take care of taxes without any predatory services,” Gutter, an associate professor of family financial management at the University of Florida, said. “There wasn’t enough outreach to low-income people. They didn’t even know the tax breaks existed.”

Most traffic comes at the beginning of tax season, Gutter said, when families struggling to make ends meet “come in waves” to file for their refunds as soon as possible. There is also a rush of people in the final week who have put the paperwork off.

This year, a total of 90 volunteers are stationed throughout the six counties. There are 42 volunteers from UF’s financial planning, law and business schools and 48 with the United Way of North Central Florida. All volunteers receive IRS training and spend four hours per week with the program for the five weeks of tax season. They don’t hesitate to call the IRS if they have questions, Haugen said.

“I told all my friends, ‘You need to go to VITA. They are absolutely the best people I have ever worked with when doing my taxes,’” she said.

Anyone can call the 2-1-1 hotline and learn where the closest VITA station is located and what to bring. The services are available either in person or online.

The online filing service is for people earning $57,000 or less.


This entry was posted in Local and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
 

More Stories in Local

BqcMUJ0CcAAuJrS

2 Shot at Apartment Complex, Police Find Suspect Dead

Update 8:30 p.m.: GPD has reported that Gerald Hall has been apprehended. Updates as they are available. Earlier: Update 10 a.m., June 19: GPD is now seeking another suspect in the shooting. Gerald Hall, 43, is wanted for questioning for [...]


For The Women Released After Arrest of CPA, Recovery Just Beginning

A well-known Alachua County accountant has been charged with three counts of human trafficking for keeping women in captivity, offering drugs in exchange for sex and house cleaning.


Group Expanding Investigation into GRU Fee Tax

Seniors vs. Crime is now looking into taxes on gas and water surcharges collected by Gainesville Regional Utilities. The group was previously only investigating a complaint about a tax on electric customer charges collected by GRU.


The fee controversy centers on whether the 10 percent municipality tax should be assessed on the electric customer charge. See the complete GRU bill breakdown.

City Responds to GRU Complaint on Fee Tax

The City Attorney and attorney representing Gainesville Regional Utilities have concluded the tax on the electric customer charge is justified.


The new Fisher House located at 5106 NW 8th Ave, Gainesville, FL 32605. Just across the street from the Malcom Randall VA Medical Center

New Fisher House will Provide Lodging to Veterans’ Families

The new Fisher House in Gainesville will allow families of veterans undergoing treatment at the Malcom Randall VA Medical Center a place of comfort during treatment.


Thank you for your support

WUFT depends on the support of our community — people like you — to help us continue to provide quality programming to North Central Florida.
Become a Sustainer
I want to support FM 89.1/NPR
I want to support Florida's 5/PBS
Donate a Vehicle
Day Sponsorship Payments
Underwriting Payments