VALPARAISO— Free federal income tax preparations through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program achieved a new record of 538 returns completed for the 2013 tax year up 76 percent from the previous year. The VITA program has been hosted by the United Way of Porter County (UWPC) for the fourth year in a row.
Sharon Kish, President, United Way of Porter County, hailed the achievement and recognized the 11 volunteers “who made this milestone happen”.
“We are pleased to provide this service especially to those in most need, the elderly, low to moderate income, and disabled, many of who are dependent on receiving either refunds or earned income credit,” Kish added.
The service was provided from Feb 2nd to April 10th with a special set-up in the UWPC community room dedicated to the program for the period. Tax preparation was done 3 days a week and several Saturday mornings.
“In all, $531,111 in refunds and earned income credit were returned to our community,” explained Kish. In addition, a total of 544 state returns were completed including several for other states. The total state refunds amounted to $64,737.
Earned income credit totaled $130,086 or an average of $1,041 per eligible family.
Many elderly taxpayers who were not required to file a federal tax form were assisted in applying for a State of Indiana elderly credit. A number of taxpayers were able to have prior years taxes filed as well and nearly 25 taxpayers were able to have their taxes prepared for the years 2012 and 2011.
This year, for the first time, free tax preparations were available on-line for those who chose to do their own tax preparation at www.myfreetaxes.com/portercounty . In all 14 taxpayers took advantage of the service.
Kish said: “We expect to make the VITA service available again next year. And with wider publicity we hope many more taxpayers will take advantage of it.”
Kish stated that “we are grateful to the JPMorgan/Chase Foundation for their support of our VITA program.” They also helped support the Northwest Indiana Community Action (NWICA) Asset Building Coalition in Lake County and the Urban League of Northwest Indiana. In addition, NWICA and United Way were recipients of an IRS grant for VITA.
All the volunteer preparers are trained and certified by the Internal Revenue Service using both on-line materials and in-person assistance.
“The more volunteers we have for the program the more people can be served,” explained Kish. “We continue to look for more volunteers to participate in the program.”
Training and certification for VITA begins in November. However, training materials remain on-line all year for those who would like to find out what the program entails.
For more information about volunteering as a certified IRS tax preparer call: George Kuebler, VITA Site Coordinator, United Way of Porter County, (219) 464-3583 x128. Or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.