The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program helps support working families.
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program provides free income tax return preparation to hard-working, low-income taxpayers, older taxpayers, persons with disabilities and taxpayers with limited English-speaking abilities. VITA helps them to take advantage of all of the tax credits for which they are eligible, including the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Child Tax Credit (CTC), and education credits. Volunteers from the community help prepare basic, current year tax returns for eligible taxpayers, free of charge. The returns are filed electronically, saving time and ensuring prompt refunds.
    The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable tax credit for eligible filers and it can make a substantial difference in a working family's annual earnings. Sadly, many eligible workers do not apply for this credit. VITA makes sure that all pertinent deductions and credits are applied to each individual return.
    In San Antonio alone, during the 2008 filing season, VITA volunteers operated 31 VITA sites located throughout the city and completed 43,300 returns, resulting in a 12% increase over the number of returns completed last year. More than $62,000,000 in refunds was returned to the San Antonio community through their VITA locations. Compare that with Beaufort County wherein approximately $25,000,000 was returned through EITC during the 2006 fiscal year.
    Just think, Sixty-two Million!! Funds back into the bank accounts of industrious, low-income families. Money to help cover the cost of necessities such as clothes, medicine, food, school supplies, fuel bills, and house payments. Funds that could be used to open savings accounts, thus helping to reinvigorate the economy.  
    Moreover, the VITA program offers its services to all military personnel and their family members, regardless of whether they are active duty or retired. Last year, VITA volunteers prepared more than 14,000 federal and state tax refunds in the Southeast region alone, saving military families over a million dollars in fees and interest rates that would have been paid to companies specializing in tax filing and instant refunds.
    In order to provide these services, we need your help. You can make a difference.
Here are some answers to questions you may be pondering.
Q: Do I need to submit a resume or have previous tax preparation experience?
A: No. VITA Training is provided free of charge to all volunteers who participate in the program.
Q: How much accounting or tax knowledge do I have to have?
A: People from all backgrounds and walks of life are encouraged to apply. All volunteers, regardless of background or experience, are required to participate in VITA tax training and become certified prior to the start of tax season. We will provide you with everything you need to know and all the physical materials; all we ask in return is your dedication, effort and thoroughness.
Q: What is the minimum commitment?
A: We would like volunteers to commit a minimum of 30 hours at the volunteer sites over the course of the tax season, but we are dedicated to working with you. We understand how precious your time and energy are. The hours can be broken up into any combination of hours worked at sites: three hours one Friday and four hours the following Saturday (and so on) is perfectly acceptable. Of course, you can always work more than the 30 hours if you wish.
Q: How does the volunteering work? How do I get the necessary information to prepare individual tax returns? Will I interact with clients?
A: In early January you will be scheduled to prepare taxes at one of our sites. Say, for example, you are assigned to be at the Beaufort Library Site from 11am to 2pm on Tuesdays. On Tuesdays you will physically go there and spend 3 hours working at the site as either a screener or volunteer tax preparer. Clients will come into the site with all of their information and necessary documents and sign in at the site. From there, packets and forms will be numbered and issued to the client and a screener will conduct an intake interview to ensure the client has provided all necessary information. Once the intake interview has been completed, the client's return will be added to the queue to be prepared. The return will be then be prepared by a volunteer tax preparer and looked over by the site manager. The return is then signed by the tax payer and the process at the site is complete. At the end of the tax day, a transmitter will review and electronically transmit all returns to the IRS. All the necessary materials to prepare tax returns are provided to each site. Volunteers are only required to bring their provided name badge and volunteer reference manuals to the sites.
Q: If I make a mistake on a return, am I liable?
A: No, you are not liable. As an unpaid volunteer, you do not sign returns you prepare, therefore you are not accountable for any mistakes.
Q: If I volunteer and live in Beaufort, will I be required to drive all the way to Hilton Head or further to prepare tax returns or attend trainings?
A: Our Training and Tax Prep Locations are strategically placed throughout Beaufort County in order to maximize the amount of people and families we serve. That said we do not expect our volunteers to drive 100 miles roundtrip in order to assist with the cause. Trainings are offered in various geographic locations in order to make it easier and more convenient for the volunteers to attend. Moreover, during the tax season, volunteers will be placed at sites based on preferences listed on their original application.
Q: When is the last day to apply to take part in the 2008-2009 VITA program?
A: While there is no deadline to apply, for training purposes we ask that our volunteers apply as soon as possible. Our goal is to have all volunteers trained and certified prior to the end of the December, but we are a flexible bunch and we will work with you!
Q: What if I have more questions?
A: Send us an email at and we will get right back to you! If you'd rather call and talk to us in person, please call us right away! You can contact our Project Coordinator, John Tilly (470-4519) or Susan E. Milne at The Beaufort Alliance for Human Services (470-2819).