OTTUMWA — Filing taxes can be overwhelming for anyone. That is why United Way of Wapello County Community Engagement Director Emma Kain is looking for volunteers to help with the process.
United Way has a program called Volunteer Income Assistance (VITA), which is available to those making $54,000 or less. Kain is looking for volunteers to help assist in the program, no matter their experience in filing taxes.
Volunteers go through a training curriculum provided by the IRS, which gives them knowledge to file federal and state income taxes. There is an online test at the end of the training, where a person needs to score 80 percent or higher. Kain said volunteers with no tax filing experience can expect 40 hours of training, while volunteers with experience may take 10 hours of training.
If a person didn’t want to help people file their taxes, they could pursue another route.
“If people want to get involved, but taxes aren’t their thing,” Kain said, “we always have a need for greeters. Those are the folks who welcome the clients in, make sure they have all the right paperwork, because that can be a process, and answer any questions about the tax process that they might have before seeing one of our volunteer tax preparers.”
The time and effort is worth pursuing because of what it means for residents.
“It’s no secret that Wapello County has a higher-than-average poverty rate,” she said.
“It’s also no secret that if you work you have to file taxes,” she added. “So we view this as an opportunity to help our members keep the money they earned and a way for them to spend the money they’ve earned on things that they need for rent, groceries, utilities, all of that. So they’re saving money they would have to pay someone to repair their taxes.”
Kain loves seeing all the reactions from volunteer tax preparers to people needing help with taxes.
“It is such a unique and rewarding opportunity,” she said. “There are a few times where one hour of your time means $6,000 for someone else in terms of tax credits. If we are able to make sure that our clients are getting all of the tax credits they deserve, that’s rewarding for me. Seeing that kind of impact can mean the difference between keeping your lights on or not.
“They’re able to provide for their families with money,” she said, “that otherwise would have gone to other tax preparers. It’s an opportunity for us to meet a direct need that this community has in free income tax preparation.”
The next volunteer tax filing training session will be held from 4-6 p.m. Dec. 4 inside the United Way conference room. People interested in becoming volunteer tax preparers may call United Way at 641-682-1264 or email email@example.com email. Tax season will start in February and go through April. Kain said anyone needing tax filing assistance needs to call United Way or email to set up an appointment.