Tax season comes with mixed feelings. You may be excited about spending that income tax return, or relieved to finally have a cushion in your savings account. Some people love the math. Others are so overwhelmed with numbers, confused by paperwork, or intimidated by tax preparer fees, that they forgo filing at all.
Thanks to a partnership between 1st Source Bank and the United Way of La Porte County, getting your taxes done can now be free of aggravation and cost. Together, they give life to Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), a program that pairs trained tax preparers with struggling citizens so that no one has to miss out on their own income. 1st Source Bank’s part is funding and they visited the offices of the United Way on January 30th for their annual check presentation.
“It’s all about community,” said Matt Vessely, Regional President of 1st Source. “United Way is dedicated to serving. It’s a natural partnership because we are too. We evaluated the project and thought it was a great way to invest in the community. It has so many angles of impact.”
The most obvious angle is financial.
Any La Porte County resident with an annual income of $62,000 or less can call 211 for a free appointment at one of three locations: The Michigan City Library, La Porte Salvation Army, or the Westville Campus of Purdue Northwest. Last year, VITA kept over 2,000 appointments, saved those people $5,000 in fees, and brought $1.75 million of income back into the local economy.
Robin Kohn, the Public Relations Director for the Library, said, “This is a huge program for us. Last year we served over 200 people. Those people didn’t know where to go, or didn’t have the money to pay someone to do their taxes for them. Without [VITA] in our community it would be devastating.”
“1st Source is instrumental in providing this service to the community,” said Dave Sisk, Director of Corporate Engagement for United Way of La Porte County and the lead behind VITA. “They do great things, wherever their footprint is. There is absolutely no need to spend hundreds to get your taxes done using the same software we have here, for free. 1st Source does it for every community they are a part of.”
While the tax filing itself is free, the program does require a bit of investment. 1st Source’s donations cover office supplies, accountant stipends, and training. It may also go toward purchasing updated equipment for the tax locations.
Kohn and other volunteers must take a week long certification course in order to prepare taxes for VITA. Students of Purdue who take the class are eligible for course credit once they have put in hours volunteering.
VITA gives real life experience to students and it stimulates the economy. The ease with which preparers walk their clients through the filing process gives each person peace of mind.
“United Way is always looking to do the most good for the least expense,” said United Way of La Porte County Executive Director, Kris Pate. “When people work together it does not cost as much. We are invested in success, striving for a common goal, and it makes us all stronger.”