United Way Digital Marketing Manager Claudia Chow usually completes her taxes in under an hour, but as someone whose day revolves around sharing how UWSD helps others in the community, she thought she’d find out firsthand. Earlier this year, she had her taxes done — for free! — at a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site in Plaza Bonita Mall. Her impression: Easy-peasy.
“I filled out a preliminary questionnaire when I arrived and was able to ask questions when I got to the table,” she explained. “Later, you can decide to store your information with the tax site so that next year’s filling is simpler and quicker.”
The VITA program offers free tax help to those who make $56,000 or less; IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals. The 54 VITA sites across the county are part of the annual Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) campaign, led by United Way, in partnership with the IRS, the County Health and Human Services Agency’s Community Action Partnership, 2-1-1 San Diego, Dreams for Change, and a number of other partner organizations.
“All the volunteers were very helpful, although they were super busy,” Claudia says (she recommends making an appointment).
It also helps that information is available in multiple languages, including Spanish and Vietnamese, as English may not be the first language for many lower-income taxpayers.
“I was happy to see how the volunteers helped each other get the work done right. Nothing fancy going on here—just tables, chairs, and their own computers—but they finish quickly, and every return is double checked, so no more second guessing myself!”
In addition to swift and accurate tax filing, Claudia’s visit to the VITA site reflects her own work ethic. “I wanted to be more invested in United Way’s work, to see the quality of our partnerships. Now, when I talk about it, I can say I have personal experience.”
Wonder if you qualify for free tax preparation assistance? To find out, schedule an appointment at one of 54 VITA sites by calling 2-1-1 or visit myfreetaxes.org