VITA VOLUNTEERS MAKING TAXes less taxing
United Way of Greater Lafayette is proud to serve the community during the tax season through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program every year. Wrapping up its 9th tax season, this program provides free tax preparation for households in the area with an income of less than $66,000. Volunteers become certified through the IRS training to ensure that they are taking appropriate steps to best serve the clients. When the program started up in 2010, it had four volunteers and served about 115 clients. Last year, VITA served over 1,100 households and was fueled by about 50 volunteers.
2019 Tax Season VITA Volunteer, Jean O'Reilly has been donating her time for over five years.
Jean O’Reilly is one of those volunteers, and she is going into her 4th year with the program. She always planned on volunteering for VITA after her retirement, as she values the ability to pass a test and use her mathematical mind. Working with the program showed Jean how applying her talents could directly support those in the community. She saw firsthand how the fees charged by commercial tax preparers can be burdensome to the clients. “They get peace of mind by having trained volunteers prepare and submit their returns and all they have to do is round up their paperwork and sit with us for an hour,” said Jean.
Volunteering can mean many different things to people, but for Jean O’Reilly working with VITA gives her the opportunity to support the members of her community while also doing something that she is proud of. She was able to use something that she values and dedicate that towards helping others. “It also means that I can help people through what can be a confusing chore.” Jean added. She also enjoys connecting with the people that use this service. “Many of the people we see are retired like me, and I really enjoy chatting with so many people who remember the 60's!” Jean exclaimed.
Shaurya Chetal is a senior at Purdue University, and this is his first year as a volunteer for the VITA program. Going into his last semester, Shaurya signed up for a class that involves volunteering in the community through free tax filings. He was motivated by his professor to volunteer for the VITA program, “I talked to him for a bit, and he told me that this is definitely something you want to do because it gives you more experience in taxes and you get to do something good for the community.”
Shaurya Chetal is a senior in Purdue's Krannert School of Management. This is his first year as a VITA Volunteer.
It didn’t take long for Shaurya to see exactly how this program makes an impact in the community. “I never realized that some people rely heavily on the tax returns that they get, to maybe pay off their rent or other important expenses,” Shaurya said. He has already been able to help many people through his volunteering, including a couple who was in the process of filing for bankruptcy. They had been scared off from doing their taxes for a couple years due to a political legislative change, so Shaurya assisted them by filing the last three years of their taxes. The couple was so grateful that the wife asked for Shaurya’s name and his plans for the future, and she let him know that she would be keeping him in her prayers. Being an international student who is hoping to get a work VISA and start a career in the United States, this client’s kind words meant a lot to him.
The clients that benefit from the VITA program come from a variety of backgrounds, but they are all hoping for ease of mind. Raymond Arrington is looking forward to using this service for the first time this year. He is new to Lafayette and he heard about VITA through his work at Subaru of Indiana Automotive. Raymond is relieved that he does not have to file his taxes by himself and risk getting audited. “There is always a fear that I will do something wrong,” Raymond said. He sees the VITA program as a way to alleviate stress through this tax season, and with the money that he saves he will be able to fix his car that gets him to and from work everyday.
From volunteers to clients, many people are positively affected by the VITA program. Jennifer Million, the Director of Finance and Operations at United Way of Greater Lafayette, says that the program promotes financial stability, and it is a great addition to the community. “The program’s success is due to strong partnerships we develop with organizations like the IRS and Purdue University, and through these partnerships United Way can build a reputation in the community.” Jennifer states. The VITA program continues to grow every year, and the impact that it makes on the members of the community is priceless.
Author: Lauren Bayley, Purdue University Professional Writing Senior.
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