Every February through April 15, the great race to file your taxes takes place. Thankfully for those who are starting to stress out, there’s hope. The United Way of Porter County offers anyone whose adjusted gross income is $56,000 or less free tax preparation through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.
“It’s a great service. There are a lot of people who, in the past, have paid a lot of money to have their taxes done and they don’t necessarily need to,” said George Kuebler, VITA volunteer.
Started by the IRS in 1969, the VITA program is a tried and true tax preparation program. Volunteer preparers from all different backgrounds are trained and certified through the IRS to prepare your federal and state taxes. Each VITA volunteer is required to pass their test with at least 80 percent each year they serve, meaning they’re up-to-date on all tax laws.
Having qualified preparers is important. When you file your taxes with the United Way of Porter County volunteers, you can be at ease knowing that they are working hard for you and are trained to make sure you don’t pay more taxes than you owe.
“There are a lot of things that we can do to really help out people who don’t know about what the government offers,” Kuebler said. “We look at the tax law and find which things apply to each person. The IRS wants people to pay what they owe, not more than you need to pay. We make sure we’re precise and that people only pay what they’re required to pay.”
Last year alone, they filed more than 825 Federal returns and more than 900 State returns (they can file for all states) with $1.4 million in Federal returns coming back to local community members, which is also excellent for local communities.
The program is open to all Northwest Indiana taxpayers with an adjusted gross income of $56,000 or less. There is no age requirement. If you are self-employed or a company contractor, preparers can assist with Schedule C-EZ filing.
Here’s how you can take advantage of this excellent program and leave the hassle and stress of preparing your taxes to the United Way of Porter County VITA volunteers.
The first step for any tax preparation is to gather all of the documents and information you need. When you have your taxes prepared with United Way of Porter County, make sure you check out their list of required documents (here) to ensure a speedy filing process.
Set an appointment
United Way of Porter County has tax preparers at their Valparaiso office Monday through Thursday and some Saturdays (exact hours listed below). The best option is to schedule an appointment so that you can be assured of a smooth process. You can make your appointment online through their website https://www.unitedwaypc.org/VITA or by calling them at 219-464-3583 ext. 108.
When you arrive at your appointment, you will be greeted and given initial paperwork to fill out for the preparer. The process takes around 10 to 15 minutes. When you are done, and your preparer is ready, you will sit down with your preparer and file your taxes.
The volunteers at United Way of Porter County are there for you. With access to several IRS resources, on top of the knowledge that they themselves hold, any questions you may have are listened to and answered.
“There’s no dumb question. If you think something’s not right or you just want to know about something, ask the preparer. We’ll look it up or discuss with each other, and we also have an IRS hotline we can call for the answer,” Kuebler said.
No matter your financial situation, as long as you meet the requirement to have your taxes filed through the United Way of Porter County VITA program, you can be assured that the team of volunteers will come alongside you and help you get through this year’s tax season.
Not sure if you qualify for the VITA tax preparation program? You can find a list of what the preparers can and cannot prepare here: https://www.unitedwaypc.org/files/galleries/VITA_IRS_FLYER_2020_-2pgs.pdf
Do you enjoy preparing your taxes and want to help other local citizens with theirs? You can take the VITA training and volunteer at United Way any time throughout the tax preparation season. United Way of Porter County is always looking for new volunteers.
“The key to program success is the dozen volunteers who prepare taxes, all of whom have studied the IRS tax training program and are certified,” Kuebler said. “I’d love to get more volunteers. They can get ahold of me any time during the season. Any time they can volunteer is extremely important to us. The more volunteers we have, the more people we can set up with appointments.”
For more information on the United Way of Porter County, visit their website: https://www.unitedwaypc.org/
Hours of operation for VITA program
Monday - 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Tuesday - 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Wednesday - 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Thursday - 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Saturday - 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.