BY BRIAN L. HUCHEL
A growing volunteer service in Vermilion County is making final preparations in time for tax season.
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program helped 220 people fill out their taxes in 2011 working at one site on the Danville Area Community College campus. Last year, that number doubled across four locations in Vermilion County.
This year, VITA coordinator and DACC accounting instructor Lyle Hicks said the program is expanding to five locations and is looking for volunteers to cover each location.
Tax preparation experience is not required, he noted.
“If they know how to type on a computer and fill in screens, they’re qualified to do tax returns,” Hicks said.
VITA needs volunteers at each of the five locations — Danville Area Community College, Fair Oaks, Georgetown-Ridge Farm High School, Hoopeston Area High School and at Laura Lee Fellowship House. Volunteers could start as early as Jan. 30, depending at which site they choose to work.
Volunteers can either assist with tax returns or work as greeters who assist people with preliminary paperwork at the location, Hicks said about 25 people have volunteered for the locations so far.
VITA offers services in Georgetown on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays and at Hoopeston and DACC on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The Laura Lee Fellowship House will be open on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Services will be available by appointment only at Fair Oaks from 4-8 p.m. Wednesdays and 8 a.m.-noon on Saturdays. Appointments are made through Hicks’ office at DACC, 443-8559.
Each appointment is scheduled for one hour, he said.
With last year’s big customer numbers, Hicks had to make trips to the Georgetown and Hoopeston locations to assist in completing tax returns.
If early appointments are any indication, the VITA program may approach similar or larger numbers this year. As of Friday, Hicks said there are 40 appointments set up for the first two weeks at DACC and Georgetown already.
“People are realizing they can come down here with an appointment, get taxes back and get the maximum,” Hicks said of the steadily increasing numbers.
A VITA site provides free income tax return preparation to those families who make less than a predetermined amount a year in gross income. This amount is determined based on the Earned Income Tax Credit.
And not enough people receive their Earned Income Tax Credit, Hicks said. He cited statistics indicated that 7,500 residents in Vermilion County were eligible for it last year, but less than 300 got it.
“They’re getting their taxes done and not getting all their credit,” he said. “That’s what is pushing VITA programs throughout the country.”
Hicks added: “We try to get them the maximum amount of dollars.”
To help accurately determine their EITC eligibility and prepare their returns, individuals should bring: