Volunteers sought for tax program

New volunteers are needed in Hamilton County for a program that provides free tax preparation for low-income families with simple tax returns.

Three types of volunteers are needed: tax preparers, schedulers, and site hosts/managers. No previous experience is necessary.

To find out more about volunteering to help with the local tax project, contact Barb Wollan at the Hamilton County Extension Office, 832-9597, or bwollan@iastate.edu. Wollan, who is herself a VITA volunteer, reports that “assisting taxpayers is both rewarding and fun, and our terrific volunteers create a very supportive and positive team environment for all of us.”

The Earned Income Tax Credit is a valuable federal and state benefit for working low-income families. To claim that benefit, however, they must file a tax return. Unfortunately, even a simple return often costs over $100, and much more if the taxpayer chooses a high-cost, high-risk “quick refund” loan. That’s why volunteer tax preparation is so important in the communities, according to Wollan.

Tax preparation volunteers receive IRS-sponsored training through VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) or AARP, and are provided the materials, equipment and software necessary to prepare basic income tax returns. Training is partly independent study and partly conducted through in-person workshops, which will take place in December 2014 or January 2015 in Webster City. Trained volunteers are certified by the IRS and have technical support available when needed. The IRS waives liability for VITA volunteers.

No specific qualifications are required, but tax preparation volunteers are most likely to be successful if they are comfortable with computers and familiar with basic tax principles. All volunteers (tax preparers and hosts) must be committed to confidentiality and to helping others.

Once trained, tax volunteers will assist individuals and families in Hamilton County with preparing their tax returns. Tax preparation is done at community sites on weekdays and Saturdays, so volunteers can find a time that fits their schedule.

Local tax preparation projects currently receive modest funding through ISED Ventures.