COLUMBUS, Ohio – Representatives of the Internal Revenue Service visited Licking County yesterday to recognize the efforts of several area residents who participated in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program during the 2012 tax filing season. The volunteer appreciation event took place at Denison University, Granville.
Volunteers thanked for their dedication and service were Bill Acklin, Dave Aschenbeck, Ron Behlke, Joe Castner, Zac Cooperrider, Bill Darnell, Petrea Fouts, Barb Lechner, Trina Lent, Lisa McReynolds, Larry Miller, Joshua Murphy, Laura Pippenger, Rita Potts, Doug Price, Bill Prior, Kathy Scott, Callie Query and Mike Schroder.
The Licking County Coalition for Housing (LCCH) established three VITA sites in Newark for the 2012 tax filing season. Working from these sites, IRS-certified volunteers helped area residents with the preparation and filing of more than 500 federal income tax returns. The volunteers gave approximately 700 hours of their time through the filing season to help low- to moderate-income and elderly taxpayers identify their eligibility for money-saving tax credits and deductions. The result was an estimated savings of in excess of $70,000 in tax prep fees to the assisted taxpayers, plus an inflow to assisted taxpayers of nearly $600,000 in the form of federal tax refunds.
This year, LCCH also hosted a facilitated self-assistance program. The program, which is new to Ohio, enables taxpayers to prepare and file their taxes using computer resources provided by the VITA site to assist them in completing their own return with minimal hands-on assistance from the VITA site’s volunteers.
Denise Caiazza, Senior Stakeholder Relationship Tax Consultant for the IRS, presented the volunteers with certificates of appreciation for their dedicated efforts in support of the VITA program. Caiazza praised LCCH and supporting partners OSU – Newark/Central Ohio Technical College (COTC), Licking County Dept. of Job and Family Services/Opportunity Links, and United Way of Central Ohio, for the cooperative, efficient and effective screening and processing system that enabled the local VITA program to increase the number of taxpayers assisted by more than 33 percent from 2011.
That increase is significant, according to Caiazza, since LCCH’s VITA program underwent a complete restructure a few years ago. “They did a great job,” she stated. “The site coordinator and the volunteers work very well together, and their primary goal is to service the need in the community as much as possible, to the point that sometimes they stay late because they don’t want to turn anyone away.”
In addition to the tax return preparation and filing services provided, Caiazza noted that LCCH’s VITA program includes financial education and planning services. State Farm Insurance Company, OSU-Newark/COTC, and Opportunity Links were all instrumental in helping get the word out about the VITA sites’ financial education and asset-building services, Caiazza said.
LickingCounty participates in a regional collaboration of Central Ohio’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) coalitions. The collaboration headed by the Franklin County EITC Coalition shares funds, marketing and training resources across Franklin, Delaware, Madison, Union, Licking, Pickaway, Fairfield and Muskingum counties. This allows LCCH to be a part of a larger picture sharing a unified message, reaching more taxpayers who need their services.
The Licking County VITA program seeks to expand into areas where the need for free tax services has not previously been provided. Caiazza noted that LCCH is already starting to recruit VITA volunteers and hopes to expand into an additional site for the 2013 filing season. VITA volunteers must complete extensive online or in-class training on current tax law and pass an end-of-course test before they may assist taxpayers with their federal income tax returns. Civic-minded area residents who would like to support local VITA and/or Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs for the 2013 filing season should send an email to TaxVolunteer@IRS.gov. More information about IRS volunteer tax preparation programs is available at www.IRS.gov, keywords “Tax Volunteer.”
The IRS website, www.IRS.gov, is a one-stop-shop resource for information on special tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the Child Tax Credit, Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled and more.