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The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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Volunteers help file taxes

Tax season has arrived and W-2 forms have begun flooding mailboxes. The Volunteers Income Tax Assistance is a service provided through the Internal Revenue Service that files tax returns quickly and efficiently at no cost.

The program was created by the IRS two decades ago to help individuals at a moderate or low income status of $35,000 or less, said Richard McCray, VITA coordinator.

“It’s an opportunity to help individuals who need a refund fast and efficient but don’t want to pay the high costs to get it done, McCray said. “Whenever you pay a tax service to do it, that is money you could keep.”

Four years ago, nine VITA sites were set up throughout the Toledo and surrounding area including one at the Wood County Senior Center and at the Pemberville Library.

The service is completely run by volunteers who are trained and certified through the IRS. Volunteers range in age from 60 all the way down to 18 years old, McCray said.

“They see a need to help the community,” he said.

An advantage of using the VITA service is that individuals can have the money directly deposited into their bank accounts through the e-file systems they use.

Based on 1300 returns filed in the 2003 tax season, VITA turned $2.2 million back to Toledo, McCray said.

Each of the nine VITA sites varies in the times they are open, so McCray suggests that individuals set up appointments to avoid confusion.

Individuals must bring with them their W-2 forms, a form of identification such as a driver’s license or a social security card and a copy of the previous years return if they filed, said Gretchen Adams, site coordinator for the Wood County Senior Center and the Pemberville Library.

At the particular sites that Adams is a coordinator, she files returns for individuals with low income, those in current financial hardship, and seniors.

Current financial hardship could be defined as individuals who have been laid off or have recently lost their job, Adams said.

“They may be over the income limit, but I still take them because they are trying to conserve wherever they can,” she said. “I feel bad where places charge people. Last year, H ‘ R Block charged an individual $50 to tell them they didn’t have to file.”

In recent years, the VITA sites have been using computer programs and e-file systems to complete returns, which allows them to increase the amount of people they serve, Adams said.

“Last year, we sent out 366 returns from the two sites,” she said. “We already have over 100 so far.”

Adams, who has been a revenue agent for the IRS for almost 30 years, was used to completing tax returns by hand and did not completely trust the computer systems at first.

After filling out her own tax return by hand and putting the data into the computer, Adams gained trust in the electronic system when both methods produced the same end result.

“It works great,” she said. “It beats doing it by hand.”

Even though people have from mid January until April 15, some individuals still wait until the last minute to file. The earlier the taxes are filed, the better, Adams said.

“You get the money and you get the headache over,” she said. “Last year on the last day, I worked until midnight to get the files returned.”

Adams is appreciative of the gratitude she receives from individuals who take advantage of the free service.

“It’s nice to have people thank you for doing their return,” she said.

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