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Alan Prahl column: Volunteers needed to help people file tax returns

3:38 PM, Oct. 26, 2013  |  Comments
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Many low- to moderate-income people don't take advantage of tax laws that could help them have more disposable income. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program, founded in 1969, has grown to be a nationwide program offering free tax preparation services. Locally, Goodwill North Central Wisconsin (Goodwill NCW) is sponsoring a VITA site at the Goodwill Community Center, 1800 Appleton Road, in Menasha. VITA services will be available to the general public beginning on Jan. 30, 2014.

Volunteers are being sought for a variety of positions. No professional experience is needed. Volunteers can greet taxpayers, complete tax returns or provide administrative support. Volunteers will receive free training.

Many volunteers have said that helping at the Menasha VITA site where over 1,400 returns were prepared last year is very rewarding: "There is a big need for tax preparation assistance in our community, and I enjoy helping to fill that need. Our clients are very appreciative of this free service, and I appreciate their thanks and smiles," and "It gives me such a thrill to help people complete their tax return and save them the expense of paying a tax service. To see the sighs of relief and the smiles on their faces is what it's all about. I will definitely be back next year."

Volunteers are asked to commit to a total of 20 hours between Jan. 30 and April 15. The hours are flexible and available during weekday afternoons, Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings.

Volunteers can choose from these different roles:

? Greeters welcome taxpayers, provide intake forms and assist with stocking supplies. Some assist in categorizing returns. Interpersonal skills are needed for this role.

? Basic tax preparers work one-on-one with taxpayers using intake forms and computer software to prepare basic returns. No tax preparation experience is necessary. Basic computer skills are required.

? Advanced tax preparers prepare more difficult tax returns and assist less-experienced volunteers. With additional training, they can assist with the quality review process to ensure that every tax return is free of errors. Income tax background or VITA experience is required.

? Screeners help taxpayers organize materials and ensure that they have all of the materials they need to prepare federal and state income tax returns. Income tax or VITA experience is required.

? Reviewers discuss the completed tax returns with the taxpayer. Reviewers help to ensure that the taxpayer is getting all of the credits available to them and that the returns are completed correctly. Income tax or VITA experience is required.

To sign up as a volunteer, contact Jackie Zolp at 920-968-6021 or e-mail jzolp_gw@gwicc.org.

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