Alliance Serves the Community Through Tax AssistancePosted on January 21st, 2015.
By: Kellie Ferguson, San Diego, CA
From February through April, the Alliance is offering the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, a service that provides free tax assistance to those whose total yearly income is less than $53,000. Appointments are available for those who qualify where taxpayers can meet with a volunteer who has been trained by the IRS to file for a tax return. However, if household income is under $58,000, resources, such as a computer will still be available.
The Alliance trained and certified over 10 volunteers this year for the VITA program. The volunteers help clients with filing their tax returns, as well as providing necessary information about the process. The IRS partnered with United Way to develop the necessary training for each volunteer. For those who are not fluent in English, the VITA program is very helpful. Volunteers speak a variety of languages, making it easier for clients to better grasp the process.
“People who live in the community and don’t speak English receive a great help through VITA. We have volunteers speaking French, Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin, Farsi and Cantonese. We can actually help them in their own language. If they didn’t have such a service they may not understand,” explained Mariana Perricelli, site coordinator of this year’s VITA event.
Perricelli is the Alliance for African Assistance’s Home Based Child Care Program Coordinator. This is her first year involved with the VITA program, but she is already conscious of the effect it has on the community.
“VITA is an important program and it really helps people. If they didn’t have a place to go and didn’t have someone helping them it could be a huge headache, especially if they do not speak the language,” she said. “Usually it costs a lot to have your taxes prepared through professional help. We try and help the community around us and our clients to get their taxes done and get some money back.”
Different countries have different laws regarding income tax. Many refugees are filing taxes for the first time in the United States, and may be confused about what they need to do.
“Many of them are not even used to doing tax returns in their country. It can be very complicated for some,” said Perricelli. “We are really grateful for the volunteers. Otherwise, we couldn’t do this. I am the site coordinator this year, but they are the ones who really sit with the clients and help them.”
The Alliance for African Assistance has offered the program for three years. The VITA site will be open at the Alliance from February 9 to April 11 on Mondays, Wednesdays and specific Saturdays.
In order to file taxes, the following information is necessary:
- A photo ID
- Social Security card or ITN (for self and dependents)
- Income Documents
- Bank Account Information
- School tuition or student loan interest statements
- Dates of health coverage (for self and dependents)