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  • Pima County teams with United Way to offer free tax assistance

    Jan 24, 2019 | Read More News
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    Pima County is again teaming with United Way and its Voluntary Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program to offer free tax-preparation assistance to anyone with a family income under $66,000.
    VITA enables taxpayers to bring in their documents, which are reviewed, scanned, and uploaded to a secure server. It usually takes about 20 minutes. Seven to 10 days later (sometimes faster), the return is securely emailed or can be picked up at a VITA site.
    Sessions are offered at eight rotating locations. (See schedule below.) It starts Feb. 5 at the Joel D. Valdez Main Library, 101 N. Stone Ave. Appointments may be made online at Walk-ins also are welcome on a first-come, first-served basis.
    For the last three years, the county’s Community Services, Employment and Training Department offered the assistance to County employees, family and friends, as well as clients and the general public. 

    “Taxes can be a headache and time-consuming,” said Bonnie Bazata, who directs the county’s Ending Poverty Now Program, which operates under Community Services, Employment and Training Department. “The Valet VITA program simplifies the process while providing the highest quality service – for free.”
    Tax prepTaxpayers must bring: 
    Picture I.D. for taxpayer and spouse. Both spouses must be present to sign documents! Social Security card for EACH family member

    Proof of income, including W2s and 1099s

    • Account and routing numbers for direct deposit of refunds 
    • Documentation for deductible expenses such as home mortgage interest or real estate taxes. 
    • Forms 5498-SA and 1099-SA for Health Savings Accounts and 1095A for Affordable Care Act. 
    Taxpayers without the required documents cannot be assisted. 
    Curtis Stokelin was the first Pima County employee to use the free tax service when it launched three years ago. He’s still an advocate for it.

    “I used VITA because it was convenient and the process was very easy,” said Stokelin, a workforce development specialist for the Pima County One-Stop Career Center. In years past, he had spent more than $130 with a tax-preparation service. 

    “I’ll definitely use VITA again because it works and it is fast!” he said.

    Dates and locations of events: 
    • Feb. 5-7 - Joel D. Valdez Main Library • 101 N. Stone Ave. • Contact: 791-4010
    • Feb. 12-14 - Abrams Public Health Center • 3950 S. Country Club Road, Room 3102 • Contact: Jenelle Sensenig, 724-9382 (Will stay open till 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday)
    • Feb. 19-21 - Pima County Housing Center • 801 W. Congress • Contact: Rachel Ramirez, 724-2480
    • Feb. 26-28 -  Kino Veterans’ Workforce Center • 2801 E. Ajo Way • Contact: Jess Grover, 724-2636
    • March 5-7 - Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department • 2955 W. Calle Agua Nueva • Contact: Steve King, 724-6207
    • March 12-14 - Sullivan Jackson Employment Center • 400 E. 26th St. • Contact: Yvette Cruz, 724-7310
    • March 19-21 - Kino Service Center • 2797 E. Ajo Way • Contact: Murney Brown, 724-5716
    • March 26-28 - Rio Nuevo Service Center • 340 N. Commerce Park Loop, Tortolita Building • Contact: Diana Garcia, 724-7608
    Every week, the hours will be the same: Tuesdays - 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wednesdays - Noon to 5 p.m., and Thursdays 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

    Check eligibility at the United Way's VITA website. Direct questions to Bonnie Bazata,, 724-3704.

    What does VITA stand for?

    Volunteer Income Tax Assistance. It means free tax assistance for anyone with a family income less than $66,000. It is a program run by the United Way of Southern Arizona in partnership with the IRS.

    The United Way partners with different organizations like the library system to have many locations across Pima County. They prepare and efile your Federal AND State tax returns. For free.

    How much can I save?

    It depends, but on average, most people save $250 to $300 by using VITA. And VITA will make sure that you qualify for any tax credits that may be owed to you.

    How is Valet VITA different than regular VITA?

    Valet VITA is an approach to offer free tax assistance to busy people. 

    Rather than waiting in line for potentially several hours and then sitting with a tax preparer, usually another hour, you just need to drop off your information at one of the Valet VITA sites. The sessions usually take 20 to 30 minutes. And you can avoid wait times with an appointment. 

    Your information goes into a queue to be prepared by an IRS-certified tax preparer. This process could take one to two weeks.

    How will the federal shutdown affect my taxes?

    We don’t know. But the IRS will begin processing returns on Jan. 28, and we will operate our local VITA program as scheduled. It is possible that returns will be delayed. Watch the news for information and check the United Way’s website and Facebook site

    Can anyone use VITA?

    Anyone with a family income of $66,000 or less can use VITA. The exceptions include things like if you own rental property or if you have your own business. You can check your eligibility at the United Way eligibility site

    If you are an active military member, please use VITA on the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. 

    What documents do I need to bring? 

    It is really important that you bring all the necessary documents. If you don’t, you may have to come back. Those documents are: 
    1. Picture I.D. for taxpayer and spouse. Both spouses must be present to sign documents! 
    2. Social Security card for EACH family member. 
    3. Proof of income, including W2s and 1099s.
    4. Account and routing numbers for direct deposit of refunds.
    5. Documentation for deductible expenses such as home mortgage interest or real estate taxes. 
    6. Forms 5498-SA and 1099-SA for Health Savings Accounts and 1095A for Affordable Care Act. 
    7. It helps if you bring your prior year’s tax return.

    Can I make an appointment for Valet VITA?

    Yes, you can. Go to the online scheduling link.

    How do I approve my tax return?

    Once the tax return is completed, you must review and approve it before it can be filed. You can do it one of two ways: 
    1. Have it emailed to you via a secured process. You review and approve. Then you have a permanent PDF of your return. 
    2. Stop in at the United Way office and request your return. You can approve it right there. You’ll have a paper return, but you won’t have an electronic version for your files. Their address: 330 N. Commerce Park Loop, Suite 200 Tucson, AZ 85745

    How do I know my taxes are being done correctly?

    All VITA volunteers are trained and IRS-certified. Every tax return is reviewed by a Quality Reviewer, someone with extensive experience. This level of expertise is often higher than using a paid tax service. 

    Do you do my state taxes too?

    Yes, we file Federal and State taxes.

    If I’m getting a refund, do I need a bank account? 

    No, you can have your return mailed to you in the form of a check, or deposited onto a prepaid debit card offered through VITA. 

    If you want it deposited to your bank account, you need your routing and account information. 

    I’m most comfortable speaking Spanish? Where can I go?

    Some of our sites offer Spanish interpreters. Call 520-903-3981 to find out which ones. 

    What are the most important things that I need to know? 

    • Be sure to bring all your documents with you. 
    • If you make an appointment, get there 5 to 10 minutes early. If you don’t make an appointment, you may have to wait a few minutes. 
    • Make a plan for how you are getting your tax return. 
    • Be sure to let the site know the best way to get in touch with you if they need to. Sometimes there is a need for some follow-up 
    • Remember: it will take one to two weeks to get your tax return back to you. 

    Who do I contact if I need more information?

    Call United Way at 520-903-9000 or check the United Way’s website and Facebook site.