Local taxpayers can have their taxes prepared and filed for free as United Way’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program opens its 11th year in the Upstate.
United Way of Greenville County, United Way of Pickens County, United Way of Anderson County, United Way of Laurens County, United Way of Oconee, and United Way of the Piedmont will offer the service at more than 50 volunteer-staffed locations across the Upstate.
VITA appointments can now be scheduled via United Way’s 2-1-1 resource line, or toll-free at 866-892-9211. The first available appointments will be Jan. 27. The VITA program will continue to run through the April 18 filing deadline.
For taxpayers who prefer to file their own returns, United Way has partnered nationally with H&R Block to offer MyFreeTaxes. The online self-prep tool allows taxpayers with a household income of $64,000 or less in 2016 to prepare and file their own federal and state taxes for free online using Premium H&R Block Software. Online tax preparers can access the program at www.unitedway.org/myfreetaxes.
Sponsored by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), VITA provides free income tax preparation assistance to individuals and families with a household income of less than $60,000 a year. VITA’s volunteers are trained and certified by the IRS to help taxpayers maximize their potential tax returns by ensuring all of the tax credits and deductions for which they qualify are claimed.
Last year, VITA helped return more than $9.2 million into the pockets of Upstate taxpayers and saved $2.1 million in tax prep fees as more than 10,000 people used the service provided by 380 volunteers.
“Many people in our community don’t have access to affordable tax preparation services or are unaware of programs like Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) that could put thousands of dollars back in their hands and into our local economy,” said Financial Education and Outreach Specialist Craig Shoemaker. “VITA helps taxpayers obtain eligible tax credits and deductions, especially EITC, Child Tax Credit, Education Tax Credits and Child Care tax deductions. By offering this service for free in our community, we can help more individuals and families maximize their returns, and achieve greater financial stability in the new year.”
In addition to appointment scheduling, 2-1-1 call specialists inform taxpayers of the documentation required for tax preparation, as well as the latest site locations and hours of operation. Once an appointment is scheduled, taxpayers will be assisted at the site by one of the program’s IRS-certified volunteer tax preparers. Tax returns can be filed electronically, and with direct deposit, taxpayers can have their refunds as quickly as seven to 14 days after filing.
For more information about the program, visit www.unitedwaygc.org/vita. To schedule an appointment, dial 2-1-1.