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United Way's VITA opens free tax preparation service

Local taxpayers can have their taxes prepared and filed for free as United Way’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program opens its 14th 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 be scheduled via United Way’s 2-1-1 resource line. The VITA program will continue to run through the filing deadline on April 15.

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 $18 million into the pockets of Upstate taxpayers as more than 13,000 people used the service.

“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 Regional VITA Program Manager 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. All taxes are filed electronically, allowing returns in as little as seven days.

United Way has also partnered nationally with H&R Block to offer MyFreeTaxes.com. The online self-prep tool allows all taxpayers, regardless of income, to prepare and file their own simple federal and state tax returns for free online. MyFreeTaxes.com is powered by H&R Block and is easy to use, safe, and 100 percent free.

For more information about the program, visit www.unitedwaygc.org/vita. To schedule an appointment, dial 2-1-1.

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