LRUW launches free income tax assistance program

LUMBERTON — The 2023 tax season officially began Monday and Lumber River United Way will again host the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance — VITA — program.

This IRS-linked program will assist taxpayers in the preparation and e-filing of their federal and state tax returns at no cost to the participant. Taxpayers eligible for this service should have a household income below $57,000, be an elder, or have a disability.

Through VITA tax clinics, taxpayers will participate in a brief interview, be assisted in creating an IRS customer portal account, and have their tax documents scanned so that an IRS-certified tax preparer volunteer can complete the return. After the return is completed, the taxpayer can either log into the IRS’ website to review/sign and have their return e-filed, or they can schedule an appointment to meet with someone to review their return.

“In the first year of LRUW’s VITA program, we assisted 85 taxpayers and secured over $100,000 in refunds,” said Community Engagement Manage Margaret Crites. “But, probably just as importantly, we saved our people nearly $12,000 in fees they would have paid for tax preparation.”

Originally created with a grant through United Way of North Carolina, this year the program is supported through a grant from the Kate B. Reynolds Foundation.

“We really didn’t know what to expect last year, but we were thrilled so many people utilized the service. Already, we are making appointments with some of the people we served last year,” Crites said.

Tax clinics have been scheduled throughout February and March at the new Lumber River United Way office, located at 301 N. Water Street, and at the Bladen County Public Library and the Hoke County Public Library.

A paper-filed return can take six months or more for the IRS to process and issue a refund. Typically, a refund for an e-filed return is issued within 21 days. By utilizing the VITA service, taxpayers will receive their whole refund rather than having a fee, of possibly several hundred dollars, deducted.

To learn more about the VITA program, please visit Lumber River United Way’s website: https://www.lumberriveruw.org/ and call the Lumber River United Way office at 910-739-4244 to make an appointment.

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