By Angela DeBoskey
Cindy called our office recently to schedule her VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) appointment. While talking to one of our staff members, she commented on how grateful she was that United Way of Hancock County was able to bring back this free income tax preparation service after a two-year pandemic hiatus.
We’re also thrilled to be resuming this program, our staffer told Cindy, though one thing was worth clarifying: While United Way of Hancock County coordinates and oversees the VITA program, we are also providing a framework for our volunteers’ skills and expertise to shine. Many aspects of this program – from the initial tech setup, the reminder phone calls the day before each appointment, the greeters assisting clients as they arrive, and the actual preparing and filing of income taxes – are carried out by community volunteers.
Cindy couldn’t believe it. (We’re pretty impressed, too.) And the very next day, this retiree was in our office completing the training required to become a volunteer VITA greeter herself.
Cindy’s gratitude at the return of VITA in Hancock County has been echoed by countless others who have called in recent weeks to schedule their tax appointments at either the Findlay-Hancock County Public Library or 50 North. We’ve scheduled senior citizens who need help filing their Social Security income; high school students just starting out in the workforce; and families with parents working multiple jobs and claiming dependents. And it’s all free.
Not only does this represent money saved on simple tax filing by community members, it also puts money back into the pockets of many who are utilizing this free service. Every 500 tax returns prepared for individuals over age 60 equates to approximately $2 million in earned income tax credits.
VITA is an IRS-managed program that has operated for over 50 years. According to irs.gov, “VITA sites are operated by IRS partners and staffed by volunteers who want to make a difference in their communities. The IRS-certified volunteers who provide tax counseling are often retired individuals associated with nonprofit organizations.” Sound familiar?
To qualify for VITA, individuals must live in Hancock County and earn a combined household income of $60,000 or less. Appointments continue through early April and can be scheduled by calling United Way of Hancock County at 567-250-1955.
When you arrive at your appointment, be sure to look around at all the people who are helping to make this great program run smoothly. These volunteers are the reason we can offer VITA in Hancock County, and many have been volunteering multiple shifts each week since the tax season began. We send our sincere gratitude to them, and we hope you will too.
DeBoskey is CEO of United Way of Hancock County.
(This guest column appeared in the Findlay Courier on March 3, 2023.)