In the early 70’s Gary Iskowitz, was doing graduate work as well as teaching tax law while working for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agency. Mr. Iskowitz saw a growing problem with questionable tax preparers who were scamming low-income people in his area. He did not like what he saw! Consequently, he proposed that he train a minimal number (10) of likeminded student volunteers to go into the community to prepare free tax returns for underserved residents. People lined up around the block waiting for them.
The following year, almost 100 students were recruited and trained to prepare free tax returns for low-income residents. The rest, they say, is history!
This college-volunteer effort significantly strengthened the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. Now, more than 40 years later, VITA is still going strong.
VITA is still designed to promote and support free tax preparation service for the underserved, in both urban and non-urban locations. Service is targeted to low-to-moderate income individuals, persons with disabilities, the elderly, and limited English speaking.
Why? Just as in Gary Iskowitz’ time, this program is an effort to provide both a valuable community service and a powerful learning experience for the participants. Not only does a tax payer get their taxes done for free, the local community benefits from the monies spent by the tax payer. Plus, the IRS is pleased because citizens are in compliance with federal law.
Volunteers come from the local communities they serve.
If you plan to take advantage of any of the VITA programs this year, be sure to bring the proper documentation. A return cannot be prepared without the appropriate certification.
And know that in an effort to stop fraudulent tax return payments, beginning in 2017, if you claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) on your tax return, the IRS must hold your refund until at least February 15 — even the portion not associated with EITC or ACTC.
What to Bring to Your Local VITA Site:
- Proof of identification (photo ID)
- Social Security cards for you, your spouse and dependents on the tax return or a Social Security number verification letter issued by the Social Security Administration
- An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) assignment letter may be substituted for you, your spouse and your dependents if you do not have a Social Security number
- Proof of foreign status, if applying for an ITIN
- Birth dates for you, your spouse and dependents on the tax return
- Wage and earning statements (Form W-2, W-2G, 1099-R,1099-Misc) from all employers
- Interest and dividend statements from banks (Forms 1099)
- A copy of last year’s federal and state returns, if available
- Proof of bank account routing and account numbers for direct deposit such as a blank check
- To file taxes electronically on a married-filing-joint tax return, both spouses must be present to sign the required forms
- Total paid for daycare provider and the daycare provider’s tax identifying number such as their Social Security number or business Employer Identification Number
- Forms 1095-A, B or C, Affordable Health Care Statements
Start 2017 off right! Being well-organized and getting your information together can save you a lot of time and maybe even money!