21 VITA sites offer free tax help for eligible taxpayers

Filing electronically expedites refunds

SAN ANTONIO – The number-crunching is on. Twenty-one Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites are in high gear, offering free tax preparation for low- and middle-income families.

“We’re kind of playing catch-up,” said Mel Dunlap, VITA volunteer at the Ed Cody Library.  

The sites opened a week later than usual due to the federal government shutdown.

VITA, which is sponsored by the city of San Antonio, the United Way of San Antonio, Catholic Charities and the Internal Revenue Service, provides free tax preparation for individuals and families who earn up to $55,000 a year.

Last year, VITA filed more than 32,300 returns, generating $47.8 million in refunds.

Getting the maximum refund quickly is priority for Rebecca Thayer, a single parent who’s banking on her refund for a down payment.

“I plan to buy my first home with this refund,” she said.

According to the IRS, most refunds for electronically filed returns will be made within three weeks.

“What I’m hearing is the average return time is seven to 10 business days,” said Roland Martinez, with the city’s Department of Human Services.

This year, changes to the tax code are in effect. Taxpayers will likely notice significantly shorter forms, but some taxpayers may also notice smaller refunds than they’re used to.    

Some people’s overall tax burdens may be less, but their refund may be smaller, too.

“The question we hear most is, ‘I got more back last year, and I made the same amount of money. What gives?’” Dunlap said.

To get a refund quickly, the IRS says to file electronically, use direct deposit instead of waiting on the mail and be accurate. A small mistake can flag your return for more scrutiny and can cause a delay.

The VITA sites are open through April 15. People are urged to call ahead to check on wait times.

For more information on what to bring, click here

VITA sites (days and hours vary): 

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