UWCC’S FREE TAX ASSISTANCE PROGRAM BRINGS OVER $545,000 IN REFUNDS TO LOCAL RESIDENTS- by Michael Knight
What could be more rewarding than helping low- to moderate-income Collier County families and supporting the local economy? We don’t know either! United Way Collier County through its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is offering volunteers the chance to help tens of thousands of Collier County residents file their taxes for free.
Last year, VITA brought in over $545,000 in refunds to families and individuals– almost all of the refunds being spent locally. And in 2018, we had the help of more than 200 volunteers to make this happen.
Giancarlos Castano, a VITA volunteer of three years says, “The beautiful thing about this program is the trust it builds. The people I work with know exactly what their taxes are paying for, and how much they have to pay.”
Volunteers receive free hands on training and IRS certification before they start working at a tax site. There they are trained in the current years tax code and how best to approach and work with the myriad filing backgrounds we encounter every year.
“When the people go to us for tax purposes, they find a familiar atmosphere. They share their personal life, needs, struggles. We get to know them as both a filer and a fellow resident, and that helps us file the most accurate return possible.” Says Giancarlos.
In 2019, VITA is excited to serve even more people, including those who may not have filed in the past. The expansion now makes the service available to all families who make less than $66,000 or less. As Giancarlos says, “The people who come to VITA are the ones who might make mistakes that end up costing them hundreds of dollars. These are the members of our community that need our help the most.”
Volunteers like Giancarlos will be even more necessary this year as Collier County residents navigate filing taxes using the new tax code.
If you or someone you know is interested in our VITA program, call 2-1-1 to see what locations and dates are best for you!