It happens the same time every year: income tax season, when millions of Americans prepare their income tax returns. Everybody has the same nagging fears: Have I filled it out correctly? Have I included all my deductions and credits? Am I paying too much or, worse yet, not getting my full refund?
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program utilizes its volunteers to help the community by preparing tax returns at no charge. The free tax preparation is available to families, individuals, young adults, single parents and retirees. If you make less than $52,000 per year, you’re eligible. VITA volunteers also check to make sure clients are filing under the right status – married, joint, head of household or single – to make sure they’re claiming the appropriate deductions and checking their W-2 for accuracy.
Thanks to a partnership between the IRS, the El Paso Coalition for Family Economic Progress and other community groups, free income tax preparation assistance is available to low- and middle-income El Pasoans. The YMCA of El Paso has been assisting in tax preparation for over 35 years. The Bowling Family YMCA has been the city’s largest site for the past 8 years. Bill Coon, President/CEO of the YMCA of El Paso, states,” The location of Bowling Family YMCA in our Northeast community and close to the New Mexico State line helps families and individuals in both Texas and New Mexico.” Gerry Fleharty has been volunteering for over 30 years and leads the site. He and 11 other volunteers work from February 1 – April 15 to make sure west Texas and Southern New Mexico have their taxes prepared on time and correctly.
“VITA volunteers are IRS-certified to prepare income tax returns,” Bill Coon said. “But we do more than prepare, we educate our clients, too. We want to make sure they’re knowledgeable about filing options available to them. More often than not, they aren’t aware of the options to increase their refund.”
Last year Bowling Family YMCA volunteers prepared 1,351 tax returns and brought over $2,000,000 back into the community.