By Claudia Virga
People often say “there are only two guarantees in life, dying and paying taxes.” For some people, just getting the day to day bills paid seems hard enough. Every year, struggling families have the stressful task of finding additional funds to have their taxes prepared and file the required tax return. Tax preparation can cost $200 on average. For families that live pay check to pay check, it could be the difference between paying the rent on time or purchasing groceries. Thanks to organizations, like the United Way of Lake and Sumter Counties, that provide VITA programs in our community, families do not need to make those kinds of tough choices.
VITA stands for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance. It is one of the many programs United Way offers to the communities it serves. It falls under their Income building block, and is one of their financial stability programs. United Way believes that every individual can achieve financial independence. The VITA program provides free basic tax preparation to individuals and families who earn under $54,000.00. In addition to saving tax preparation cost, they also make sure that every eligible client receives the Earned Income Tax Credit, as well as other tax credits. Taxes are filed electronically for quick refunds and bring money back into our community.
Tax returns are prepared by certified volunteer tax preparers. By volunteering for the VITA program it also falls under the United Ways building blocks, by providing a hand up, not hand out. Volunteers earn a tax-preparer certification and that can be used to enhance their resume. VITA gives them experience, confidence and other valuable lifelong skills. These learned skills can help them advance in their careers while making a difference in the community.
In 2015, United Way prepared over 500 tax returns through their VITA locations, as well as online services. They brought back into our community over $650,000.00 in tax refunds. If you are in need of tax preparation, simply call the United Way’s referral hotline 2-1-1, which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Operators will find a location most convenient to you and will schedule you an appointment. If you would like to learn a new skill, help others, and make a difference in the community by becoming a Certified Tax Preparer for the VITA program, call Barbara Crewell at 352-787-7530 Ext. 221. It is never too early or too late to Live United! Call today and make a difference not only in your life, but the lives of others.