United Way offers Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program

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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG)- One local organization will help take the stress out of filing your taxes, and do it for free. The United Way offers volunteer income tax assistance also known as VITA.

David Sanders has been taking advantage of the VITA program for the past two years.

"Its helped me because it was economical first thing and reliable," said Sanders. "These people know what they're doing."

Filing your tax return can be tricky, time consuming, and costly, but the United Way is lending a helping hand to those in need. The local program can prepare tax returns for those who earned $62,000 or less in 2015.

"We have young single parents to retired seniors who come in and they all appear to be very, very thankful and grateful for what we do for them," said United Way President Brian Taylor.

On Wednesday, the United Way and the Bay County Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the VITA program. The IRS sponsored program trains volunteers to file tax returns.

"It just helps people who can't spend the money to get their taxes done," said VITA Volunteer Charmian Cretney. "We do it free here and also it's just a pleasant thing to do."

Members of the United Way say there's a huge need for this service in our community. They say just last year alone they helped more than 3,000 people file their taxes.

"We brought in refunds of over $3 million in income tax credits," said Taylor. "That demonstrates the need to me."

This year the program is partnering with college students from the Haney Technical Center. Students in their accounting program were trained by the IRS to file tax returns, which they will receive internship credit for.

"Our students are always looking for opportunities to be involved in the community so this is a mutually beneficial existence," said Assistant Director at Haney Technical Center Alexandra Murphy. "It helps them to get hands on training and then they are able to interact with people that perhaps they wouldn't have cross paths with and see how they can help them."

The service is free and open to the public and no appointment is required. The VITA site is located at A.D. Harris Learning Village - 819 East 11th Street, Panama City, FL. They're open Wednesday through Saturday.