Program offers free tax return preparation


(WMBB) — The 2020 tax season is here, and multiple community organizations have partnered together to provide tax return services for free.

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA) is sponsored by The United Way of Northwest Florida and allows for people making less than $66,000 per year to get free income tax preparation.

“That money that they save can be used to pay bills … or could even be set aside for savings for a rainy day,” Jackie Keller, IRS senior tax consultant, said.

Keller says the program’s goal is to put money back into citizens’ pockets. VITA has been in Bay County for more than 20 years.

“Taxes are scary for anybody, so a lot of times individuals just feel intimidated preparing their own tax return. This gives them the opportunity to come into a site and to sit down and have somebody prepare their return for them,” Keller said.

New this year, UF/IFAS has also partnered with the United Way to provide free tax preparation software and advice for people of any income.

“Anybody can do their taxes and then if you have questions, we can assist you. You bring in your own forms, you do your own work on the Internet and then if you forget something, you can always take it home and finish it at home if you want to or come back,” Melanie Taylor, UF/IFAS family and consumer sciences extension agent, said.

Taylor says everything is done privately, so the IRS-certified volunteers will not see all of a person’s information. She encourages anyone to come in to the extension office site or a VITA location.

“Especially if they’re a little bit nervous about doing them by themselves, then that way they can have a little bit of guidance,” Taylor said.

Tax assistance is available at the following VITA locations:

  • Panama City VITA site- opens January 21 at Bill Cramer, located at 2251 W 23rd St. It will be open:
    • Tuesday-Thursday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
    • Saturday- 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. The Saturday site will be open at least one Saturday per month, call 850-348-9077 for details
  • Florida Panhandle Technical College in Chipley is also a VITA site. Residents can drop off documents between 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m., and returns will be prepared for free. For more information, call 850-638-1180.
  • The UF/IFAS site will have a computer set up with the software. To schedule an appointment, call 850-784-6105. Appointments will take place on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. beginning January 27.

All three sites will be open until April 15.

Casualty losses won’t be prepared at the three sites, but the volunteers can offer help and advice on if someone needs to go to a paid preparer.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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