A lot of people like to complain about paying taxes but not me. I understand that the roads I drive on, the EMS and other services I rely on to keep me safe, and public education that I care about so much, is funded, in part, by my taxes and I am okay with it.
I am also very fortunate that my better half is a trained tax preparer. Except for having to divulge how much money “I give away” and addressing my lack of personal paper management, it’s a pretty good deal for me.
Imagine, just for a minute, how daunting filing taxes can be for someone who doesn’t have the knowledge or training? Yes, there are great free services out there. In fact, you can go to United Ways website, www.uwpickens.org and use “My Free Taxes” for FREE.
But, what if you are not computer literate or don’t have access to a computer except for the public library? What if you are on a very limited income and cannot afford to pay someone to do your taxes? What if you cannot read?
To paraphrase Ben Franklin, the only thing you can count on in life is death and taxes. You can’t run or hide. Eventually, everyone will pay their taxes.
Just like a Superhero, United Way comes to the rescue by offering the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. Also known as VITA, we provide free income tax assistance to individuals and families with a household income of less than $60,000 a year.
Here’s a little demographic data from last year that is particularly sobering to me. Out of the 1,500 returns we successfully prepared and filed, the average household income was less than $20,000 a year. These are people who are working, on social security or limited income. We also served folks who were right at the high end of threshold too. We even have preparers who are certified at the IRS advanced level. Not to brag, (well, maybe a little) our rejection rate was the lowest in the upstate.
Our volunteer tax preparers are IRS trained and certified. They are friendly and nice and they have a servant heart to make the world a better place. They help people understand how much money they will receive and may even throw in some advice on how best to save or invest it … for example, paying down a high interest loan vs. buying a new TV.
What you won’t get from VITA is a rapid refund with a high interest rate. You’ll have to wait at least a few weeks, maybe longer this year with the changes in tax laws. But it’s worth the wait to save the interest rate you’ll be charged to get your money faster.
The positive impact of VITA stretches deep and wide. We have a fantastic relationship with local universities like Clemson and Southern Wesleyan. The entire Central/Clemson site is run by Clemson students who are business or finance majors. They do a great job and imagine how good real world experience like VITA looks on a resume!
I like to get certified to be a VITA greeter because there is nothing better than running into my donors and being able to thank them AND offer them this great service for free. Shouts of glee and tears of joy are not an uncommon sight to witness as a VITA volunteer. I highly recommend it.
The Pickens County libraries and Goodwill Job Connection in Easley are this year’s VITA sites.
Hours will vary at each individual site vary but somewhere in Pickens County, you can get your taxes prepared Monday through Saturday from 11-7 p.m. To make your VITA appointment, call 2-1-1 or 866-892-9211.
VITA runs from Jan. 26 – April 17.
Don’t wait, get your appointment ASAP.
Julie Capaldi is president of United Way of Pickens County. She can be reached at email@example.com or 864-850-7094, extension 101.