Family Connection may work with free tax prep program VITA
By Stephanie Johns
Jacqueline Bosby recently shared information about a free tax preparation program called Volunteer Income Tax Assistance offered to individuals with incomes of $50,000 or less.
During last Tuesday's morning meeting of the Morgan County Family Connection Collaborative meeting, Bosby shared information about herself and the VITA program, hoping to work with Family Connection in future months.
She already had done taxes for low-income people for 15 years when her daughter in Valdosta told her about the VITA program.
“If God didn’t give me anything else, He gave me the ability to problem solve and figure out programs,” she said. “I’ve put together just about anything.”
She talked to her daughter and they decided to put together one-day clinics where they went out on one day and did taxes for “anybody and everybody.”
Bosby said that was a good idea that worked for a little while. Then three years ago she decided to teach the young participants – high school seniors and college students – in her leadership group in Elberton how to prepare taxes.
She trained 38 kids ranging from age 14 up to high school seniors during that first training session two years ago. Speaking of the 14-year-old, Bosby said she was probably the best.
“She was out to prove a point,” Bosby said. “She probably did more taxes than anybody else.”
Last year she trained 19 kids who in turn went into different counties including Barrow, Clarke, and Oglethorpe before heading south with 12 of them to Valdosta for a big kickoff.
She said their biggest problem last year was timing.
“By the time we decided what we were going to do, it was too late,” she said. “One thing I’ve noticed with doing taxes for poor people, if you don’t catch them that first week of February, that second week of February, you can forget it.”
Bosby explained that after the first two weeks in February, most of the people the VITA program serves already have paid to have their taxes done.
“We want to get word out to poor families that they can have all of their money within a week,” she said, adding that the VITA clients already have gone months without the money they have taken out for taxes by the time tax season rolls around.
If people use the VITA program they are not charged a fee as they would be if they were to use a tax preparation business. In this way, the VITA clients get all of their money back as opposed to paying a portion of it to a business.
“How about we start educating people ahead of time and let them know that they don’t have to pay $300, $400,” she said. “You’ve waited all this time for your money, wait a couple more days and get it all.”
Over the summer Bosby and the kids in her leadership program decided to share their tax knowledge with the Region 5 Family Connection members to see if there was any interest in the connection members working with the leadership group on a VITA program for the area.
The one-day training session is facilitated by the Internal Revenue Service for groups of three or more. When a group participates in the VITA program, one person does a client’s taxes, another double-checks the first person’s work, and the third person records the details.
Bosby said that volunteer tax preparers are protected by the state.
“If they do something wrong and you get audited or whatever, there is no penalty on anybody because they know it was a volunteer program,” she said.
Bosby said they also could incorporate a Money Empowerment Day along with the one-day VITA program.
“We bring out the banks for that one day,” she said. “We bring out anything that deals with financial empowerment.”
She added that they would have someone talk about financing a car, making a budget, and funding college.
“We don’t charge anybody anything,” she said. “We don’t make any money of it.”
Bosby said that this may count toward a student’s community service project.
Details about the VITA program will be announced at a later date.
Printed in the September 27, 2012 edition