Tax preparation season is quickly approaching and that can be a nerve-wracking time for filers, especially if they can’t afford to hire professional help. Kevin Smith, Vice President of Communications at United Way Quad Cities, says there’s help out there, for free.

“VITA is our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. This is in partnership with AARP and dozens of volunteers in the area,” says Smith. “These are trained professionals who are helping folks to get their income tax returns that are owed to them. It’s something that a lot of individuals, a lot of families and retirees have come to rely on.”

The VITA program is geared towards people who make under $60,000 a year and Smith says they see a great deal of retirees and working families who have come to rely on this program. “They might not have the money or the resources to go through a tax professional and this is just a way to make sure that they’re getting back every dollar that’s owed to them by the government. Our volunteers will make sure that that they’re getting all the tax credits that they should rightfully get.”  

New tax credits and programs can make filing confusing, but that’s one more reason to seek help, says Smith. “They’ll be knowledgeable with you about that information. We’re talking about hundreds of individual filers, families, retirees who will rely on United Way for this service, so last year’s impact was just shy of 3,000 different filers. If you look back at the past three years, the net impact to our community in terms of dollars that were refunded, dollars that were saved from actually having to spend on accountants, about $12 million over the course of three years.”

To be eligible for tax preparation services through VITA, filers must have earned less than $60,000 in the last year. Click here for more information, locations and to sign up for an appointment. Appointments are available between February 1 and April 12 and there is only one walk-in location, at the MLK Center in Rock Island. Smith urges everyone who is eligible to sign up for the program.

“We’ve got rising costs like we haven’t really seen it in a while. I think now is the time that folks are really thinking ‘how can I get the money back that’s owed to me, the money that I’ve paid the government that should rightfully return to me?’ This gives them an outlet to getting those resources. This is why VITA is so important and it gives folks a means to get a little bit of financial stability.”

“VITA is powered by the volunteers so it’s really the folks with AARP and different companies who will sometimes have employees who use volunteer hours, schools that will have folks studying finance. It’s just a really cool way of the community rallying around the need so that’s really inspiring to me.”