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

The band members of Guts, from left to right: Kara Smith, bass and vocals; Samantha Jones, guitar, bass, drums and vocals; Kentucky Costellow, drums; and Rebecca Butler, keys and tenor ukulele. Guts plays for campers in the Gainesville Girls Rock Camp on Friday after lunch. The camp, which is in its third year, focuses on using music to empower young girls. Christine Preston / WUFT News

Rock Camp Empowers Young Girls In Gainesville

The Gainesville Girls Rock Camp uses music to empower young girls and teens. Girls gain self-confidence throughout the program and learn to encourage each another.


Signs indicating unsafe levels of bacteria in Hogtown Creek were posted in June, according to Linda Demetropoulos, nature manager of the city of Gainesville Parks Department. Visitors can find these signs around various areas of local parks.

Hogtown Creek Bacteria Levels Unsafe For Human Use

The Alachua County Environmental Protection Department has found unsafe levels of bacteria in Hogtown Creek waters.


I-75 at MM385 is backed up due to manhunt. Photo via @GACSmarttraffic.

I-75 Shut Down After Trooper Involved In Shooting

Update 7/27/2015 at 7:15 p.m.: The suspect has been identified as Earl Jackson, according to a news release from the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office.


Kristen Hadeed, founder of Student Maid, and Rich Blaser, co-founder of Infinite Energy, explain how Josh impacted the start-up community in Gainesville. They were part of a group of young entrepreneurs in Gainesville who met monthly to discuss their work.

Memorial Held for Gainesville Entrepreneur

A memorial for Josh Greenberg, the co-founder of music streaming service Grooveshark, was held Friday evening at the Phillips Center. He was found dead in his home July 19.


Gainesville Pictures 467

Lupus Patient Starts Support Group in Gainesville

Adoabi Ugochukwu, 22, was diagnosed with lupus at 15 years old. Now, she’s planning on starting a support group in Gainesville for lupus patients.


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
Underwriting Payments