Free tax preparation service underway
Volunteer tax assistance program helps low-income families
As tax season gets in full swing, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, also known as VITA, is now underway.
Through the program, individuals and households that earned $55,000 or less last year can get free tax help through April 15 at 23 different sites across the city.
Felipe Hernandez was one dozens of people who lined up as soon as the VITA location opened on Wednesday at the YWCA at 503 Castroville Road.
"It saves a lot of money and it saves a lot of time and effort dong it this way," said Hernandez.
VITA was started by the IRS about 12 years ago after it was noticed that people weren't filling out forms correctly and were losing out on thousands of dollars in credit.
A city-wide coalition of nonprofit organizations and businesses led by the City of San Antonio, United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County, and Catholic Charities of San Antonio Inc. help run the program locally.
Almost all of the tax preparers are volunteers that have been trained and certified by the IRS.
"The average person coming to our site will get back $200 to $3,000 in credits and, of course, all the services are completely free, so they don't have to go to a paid preparer," said Richard Keith, with the city of San Antonio's Department of Human Services.
Misty Hernandez said she has taken advantage of the program for the past four years and the money saved by not going to a tax preparer has added up.
"I probably have saved at least $500 from some of the other services that I've used in the past, so that's $500 more in my pocket," said Hernandez.
Last year, VITA filed more than 34,000 tax returns, saving San Antonio taxpayers about $9 million in preparation fees.
VITA is still in need of volunteer tax preparers.
For information on how to help or to locate a VITA site near you, visit www.vitasa.org or call United Way at 211.
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