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October 31, 2012
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Volunteers sought to help residents at tax time

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. - Tax time is often stressful. It can be especially hard for households in the North Tahoe area that need to maximize their refund but have difficulty paying fees for a third party tax preparer. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, or VITA for short, is here to help.

VITA is an IRS-sponsored service that offers free preparation of federal and California tax returns for households with income under $50,000. Tax returns are prepared by volunteers that are trained and certified by the IRS, and other aspects of the program also depend on volunteers.

In 2012, volunteers at Northern Nevada VITA sites prepared more than 2,900 federal tax returns for local residents and in the process helped those residents receive more than $1.9 million in tax credits and $4 million in total refunds.

For the upcoming tax season, Tahoe Family Solutions (TFS) is sponsoring a VITA site at the Donald W. Reynolds Community Non-profit Center in Incline Village. TFS is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization providing low/no cost services to children and families living along the North Shore of Lake Tahoe with the mission of "Strengthening the Family Fabric in the Tahoe Basin."

The VITA program supports that mission by helping families obtain all of the tax credits and refunds that are available to them, without having to pay extra fees to get their taxes done, thereby enhancing the financial stability of local families.

Volunteers are needed so that we can assist as many households as possible, which will also bring more dollars to our communities that can help the local economy. Adult volunteers of all ages and backgrounds are welcome. Volunteers can help in two different capacities:

• Tax Preparers work with clients to prepare and submit tax returns. All tax preparers get free tax training provided by the IRS in cooperation with the United Way. Training is available in both classroom and online formats, after which volunteers are certified by the IRS before starting to prepare tax returns. Good computer skills are valuable in order to use the software provided by the IRS, which handles many of the details for accurate tax return preparation. The Tax Preparers receive excellent resources and support at all times, including assistance from a volunteer Site Coordinator that is a former CPA.

• Greeters greet clients as they arrive at the site, help clients fill out an intake form, and then work with the Site Coordinator to direct each client to a Tax Preparer. No special training or certification is needed to be a Greeter. People who are proficient in both English and Spanish are especially helpful in this role, but it is not necessary to be bilingual.

For more information or to express an interest in volunteering, please contact Amy Guinan at the TFS offices at 775-298-0004 or via e-mail at amyg@tahoefamily.org. If you have specific questions about the volunteer experience, training provided, or other details about the VITA program, you can also contact Mike Smith, the volunteer Site Coordinator, at 775-831-7382 or via e-mail at msmithtahoe@gmail.com.

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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Oct 31, 2012 10:50PM Published Oct 31, 2012 10:49PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.