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UF/IFAS VITA Team Makes the Mark

Back Row (L-R): Michael Gutter, Samara Deary, Heidi Copeland. Front Row (L-R): Heather Janney, Carree Musgrove, Taylor Spangler, Diann Douglas. Not pictured: Jorge Ruiz-Men

Since 1989, the Prudential Productivity Awards program recognizes and rewards state employees and teams whose work significantly contributes to increased productivity and fosters innovation to enhance the delivery of state services, saving Florida taxpayers money. On June 14, 2017, the UF/IFAS VITA Team was the proud recipient of a Prudential Productivity Award for their work developing and implementing the Virtual Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program. Utilizing communication technologies, such as Skype, allowed Extension Agents in rural counties with limited volunteers, to expand traditional VITA programs by remotely connecting with centrally located IRS-certified volunteers to assist with tax preparation. During the 2016 tax season, the UF/IFAS VITA program was offered in nine North Florida counties (Bradford, Columbia, Gadsden, Hamilton, Leon, Madison, Okaloosa, Union, and Walton) and four South Georgia counties (Early, Lanier, Sumter, and Tift). Over 300 tax returns were completed through the program, enabling taxpayers to receive approximately $119,000 in refunds. With the average cost of professional income tax preparation at $268, this translates into $82,000 in taxpayer savings. The virtual VITA model is the only program of its kind serving low to moderate income taxpayers in the State of Florida. Contact the Columbia County Extension Office at 386-752-5384 for more information about participating in the VITA Program.

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