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In the early ’70s, Gary Iskowitz was doing graduate work as well as teaching tax law while working for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). 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 training a few like-minded student volunteers to go into the community to prepare free tax returns for under-served residents.
The rest, they say, is history! Starting with this volunteer effort, 40 years later, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program is still going strong.
VITA still is designed to promote and support free tax preparation service for the under-served 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 individuals.
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.
Check out your local VITA sites this year. Around North Florida, there are numerous volunteer sites being readied for the 2014 tax year. Some of these sites are traditional, where taxes are done in person; some sites prepare taxes via SKYPE – the telecommunications application software that specializes in providing video chat and voice calls from computers. Using SKYPE as an application to accessing VITA has been well received, especially in rural locations.
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 documentation. For a complete list of documentation needed for a VITA-prepared tax return, contact your local VITA tax preparation site. Where are these sites? Call your local helpline 2-1-1 or visit http://irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep/.