The United Way of Natrona County has been supporting a 2019 Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program that launched on Tuesday, Jan. 22.
VITA is an IRS initiative that aims to help people file their taxes. VITA volunteers have helped file 1,581 tax returns, with a total of $1.94 million in refunds so far in 2019, according to UWNC Executive Director Anna Wilcox.
She added that the program has assisted more than 230 veterans so far this year and that volunteers have given more than 2,000 hours of their time.
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The free tax assistance will be available until Friday, April 12
The VITA program connects people with IRS certified volunteers who understand the ins and outs of all the different tax forms.
Wilcox said the program is available to anyone, particularly people with low-income, seniors, and people she says might not otherwise file their taxes.
A volunteer named Linda added that VITA can also help people with rental properties or small businesses file their taxes.
Many of the volunteers said the program has had a successful tax season so far and said they’ve enjoyed their time.
“It’s a cooperative effort,” VITA volunteer Cindy said. “The people here are amazing. And almost everyone is grateful [for the assistance].”
Another volunteer, Diane, said that working with the other volunteers has been fun.
“We like people who are volunteers,” she said. “They are friendly and outgoing.”
The volunteers added that they thought many of the people who VITA assisted might not otherwise have filed tax returns. They also said that VITA volunteers double check every return.
“I don’t think that some other places necessarily do that,” Cindy said.
The volunteers added that an Affordable Care Act navigator has also been available during some of the tax assistance sessions to help people get health care.
While they expressed pleasure with how the program has gone so far, the VITA volunteers said that more help would be beneficial.
“We could always use more volunteers,” Cindy said.
They pointed to a lack of volunteers in Converse County. Diane said that three people from Casper have been driving down to Douglas to offer tax assistance at the Senior Center there.
“It makes for a long day,” she said.
The volunteers also wanted to emphasize the role that United Way plays in supporting the program.
“It’s because of the United Way that we have the VITA program,” Cindy said.
Wilcox said that April is National Volunteer month. She said that UWNC is looking to encourage volunteerism this month, and said the VITA program is a good example of the time and effort volunteers contribute.
The volunteers seemed to agree.
“It is the best program that I have ever been a part of,” Cindy said.
The VITA assistance is available at 350 Big Horn Rd., off Poplar Street behind True Companies.