For ten years, United Way of Broome County has been helping eligible families get free help in preparing their income taxes and a global pandemic isn't going to stop the program from happening this year as well.

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Paula Perna of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is on the weekly, local public affairs program, Southern Tier Close Up to talk about the free income tax preparation service and has information on how IRS-certified volunteers can help residents with total household income of less than $66,000 have their tax return prepared absolutely free.

Perna says there was a dramatic drop-off in the use of the service last year as the pandemic hit just at the height of tax season but this year, even more residents may find themselves falling into that income bracket to qualify for free help.

This year, however, the demand for the service has soared, prompting organizers to add appointments and enlist the help of more volunteers.

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Perna says the service prepared over 1,540 returns in 2019, resulting in $2,647,432 in tax refunds. In addition, residents saved $401,940 by not having to pay someone to prepare their taxes.

This year, of course, the procedures for using VITA are a little different given the COVID-19 safety protocols.

Appointments can be scheduled by calling 211 and tax information will be taken at that time.  The VITA preparers will complete the returns and give the taxpayers a scheduled day and time to return to the VITA site to pick up their copy of their income tax returns and tax information.

Appointments are being taken through April 13.

Residents can also look into filing taxes free at www.MYFreeTaxes.com.

Former tax professionals and others wishing to help can call 211 for information on volunteering for the program.

Hear a lot more about the VITA program on Southern Tier Close Up Saturday at 6:04 a.m. on News Radio 1290 WNBF and on the WNBF podcast.

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