2020 Success Story: VITA
When Arlen first visited Lifeline for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program in 2016, he was unsure what to expect. Arlen delivers newspapers for a living. He starts his deliveries around 3:00 a.m. and drives 120 miles a day. This type of work pays its labor force by way of non-employee compensation and this pay characterization does not withhold income taxes for the individual. This required Arlen to file his tax return as self-employed. Prior to finding Lifeline, Arlen paid a large tax preparer company to complete his tax returns. This was an expense that he could not afford. He was trying to take care of himself and his aging parents.
At his first VITA clinic Arlen arrived with a plastic grocery bag full of his “tax information.” It included receipts and pieces of paper with mileage information. Our volunteer that day, a retired CPA, spent three hours sorting, reviewing and preparing Arlen’s information and tax return. This is not the typical interaction for the VITA clinic, however, both Arlen and our volunteer benefitted from the time spent together that day. The volunteer preparer made sure that Arlen understood to the best of his ability what he needed for his tax return going forward. We provided him with mileage logs and organization suggestions.
“It is a nice place to go to have your taxes done,” said Arlen. “The atmosphere is professional and friendly. They have good personalities and they know what they’re doing.”
“This was my fifth tax season with Arlen. His tax return comes with its own challenges, but he is one of my favorite clients,” said Tiffany Menosky, program coordinator. “My core group of veteran volunteer preparers know him and his story and I believe that we all look forward to Arlen for two reasons; first, he is special to us and we love to hear about his year and second, he comes in late March and we know that signals the end of tax season is soon. When Arlen arrives at our clinic now, he is much more organized and prepared. Every year he takes the information that we share with him and applies it for the next year. Arlen is exactly the person we are here to help.”
VITA is an IRS program and all of our volunteers are certified in tax preparation through IRS training and assessments.