Volunteers sought for free tax assistance programPublished 9:58am Monday, November 28, 2011
IRONTON — Tax season is quickly approaching and volunteers are needed to participate in the Internal Revenue Service’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, coordinated in the area by the United Way of the River Cities and Goodwill Industries of KYOWA.
VITA volunteers offer tax assistance to working families earning less than $50,000, at numerous sites throughout the Tri-State including the Workforce Development Resource Center in Ironton and Ohio University’s Proctorville campus. Sites open in mid-January, and continue through mid-April but training begins in early January.
Volunteers complete training using software provided by the IRS, and no accounting or financial experience is required. Volunteers are asked to be comfortable using a computer and can serve as site coordinators tax preparers and greeters, according to Ed Davis, coordinator of the Financial Stability Partnership of the River Cities.
“They don’t have to hold a degree in business finance or that nature, they need to be able to have that drive and commitment to help folks, and to be able to sit down and be certified and trained. All training done by experienced and certified trainers, and through the IRS website,” he said.
Training date in Lawrence County are set for Jan. 4, 6, 10, and 12 from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the WDRC in Ironton.
Volunteers who are unable to attend one of the training sessions can make up the lessons on line through the IRS’s website, said Davis.
Volunteers are tested on their skills and must pass the ethics and basic exam to participate. They are encouraged to pass the intermediate and advanced level tests, according to Davis.
Davis said approximately 10 to 12 volunteers are needed for the two sites in Lawrence County, adding getting volunteers is the biggest challenge the organization faces. “We are always looking for volunteers. We would love to expand our services and offer a third location in Lawrence County but it is so challenging to find those willing and able to volunteer,” he said.
Jewell Hackworth, job training director at the WFDRC said the site hopes to quadruple the number of tax returns prepared there from 250 last year to 1,000 returns this year.
It’s a lofty goal, but one Davis believes can be accomplished with enough dedicated volunteers.
The free tax return service is not only valuable to the individuals who receive it but the entire community but more money is kept in the local economy. “Last year we did a little bit over 1,000 tax returns. That is over $210,000 that we were able to keep in our community. That is money that would have gone through for-profit tax preparer and left our community and gone someplace else,” he said, noting the average household making $20,000 to $25,000 spends $200 when their taxes are prepared and filed by for-profit companies.
Davis added VITA volunteers are also trained to look a variety tax credits.
“We want to make sure they get access to this money. There are many tax credits out there that folks sometimes don’t think about or think they are eligible for. That is extra money that comes back to only to the families but our communities as well,” he said.
For more information about the Financial Stability Partnership of the River Cities or the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, contact Ed Davis at 304-523-8929, ext. 6, or firstname.lastname@example.org.