Volunteers ready to help area residents with their taxes

Those with less than $49,000 in annual income are eligible


Published: Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 4:44 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 10:32 p.m.

Correction: The United Way of North Central Florida will provide tax assistance to residents with annual incomes of less than $49,000 at the Tower Road Branch Library on Saturdays, March 5, March 19 and April 2 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. An earlier version of this story stated otherwise.

Facts

Gainesville locations and times

Alachua County Housing Authority
703 NE 1st St.
Through April 8
Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

City College
7001 NW Fourth Blvd.
Feb. 1- April 12
Tuesdays, 1- 4 p.m.

Santa Fe College downtown campus
401 NW Sixh St.
Through April 13
Mondays and Wednesdays, 6-9 p.m.

Santa Fe College main campus
3000 NW 83rd St.
Feb. 7-26
Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, 2-6 p.m.

The Library Partnership: A Neighborhood Resource Center
1130 NE 16th Ave.
Feb. 3-April 9
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 4 to 7 p.m.
Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Tower Road Library
3020 SW 75th St.
Assistance provided by the United Way of North Central Florida
Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
March 5, March 19 and April 2

University of Florida, Levin College of Law
Corner of Southwest Second Avenue and 25th Street
Feb. 1-April 7
Tuesday-Thursday, 5-9 p.m.

As the deadline for filing income tax returns approaches, a free tax preparation program is extending its services to help residents with the paperwork.

Last week, the United Way of North Central Florida officially kicked off the 2011 Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), which is a national IRS program that helps residents with annual incomes of less than $49,000 fill out tax returns for free.

Sponsored by Wachovia, BBVA Compass, the University of Florida and other companies, the program's local branch has expanded this year into three more counties to include a total of 18 volunteer income tax assistance sites in Alachua, Bradford, Gilchrist, Union, Levy and Dixie counties.

Last year, more than 1,000 tax returns, which counted for about $1.3 million in tax refunds, were filed with the help of about 200 program volunteers, said Mindy Underberger, spokeswoman for the United Way of North Central Florida, which coordinates the local program.

This year, the number of volunteers increased to 250, and Underberger said they hope to help file about 1,400 tax returns.

She said some people may be eligible to claim up to $5,600 in Earned Income Tax Credits from the IRS without knowing it.

“We want to boost our community financially,” she said.

Gainesville resident Milton Mansfield, 66, said he took advantage of the program last year for the first time and was able to save $250 on his tax return.

“This program is great,” Mansfield said. “(The IRS) changes rules so often. It's hard to keep up with the changes.”

Clifford Patrick, 67, senior pastor at the New Beginnings Church of God by Faith, also praised the speed of the free service. He said it took the program's volunteers only about an hour to fill out his tax forms, something that took him about 14 hours to finish.

The volunteers go through 40 hours of basic training to participate in the program.

Volunteers Jack Hon, who recently graduated from UF with an accounting degree, said he started volunteering with the VITA program in 2008 in Fort Lauderdale while attending Broward Community College and continued when he transferred to UF.

“It has been a really great experience,” he said. “I get to use what I learn and help people.”

For more information about the program, call the United Way's referral line 211 or visit www.unitedwayncfl.org.

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