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  • Free VITA tax preparation available online this year

    Feb 12, 2021 | Read More News
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    The free tax assistance Pima County and United Way have offered since 2016 will look different this year via an easy online process.

    The VITA (Voluntary Income Tax Assistance) program, which is a partnership between Pima County’s Community & Workforce Development (CWD) Department and the United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona, is mostly virtual this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    LaptopThe VITA program is available to households earning up to $66,000 annually.

    Taxpayers can get help from Internal Revenue Service-certified tax preparers by going to GetYourRefund.org from their mobile phones, tablets or computers. At the website, the taxpayer answers questions on an intake form and can chat online with a specialist if they need help. The next step is to securely upload the tax documents.

    A VITA volunteer will call to confirm everything is in order for the tax return (click for a document checklist). Then the return is prepared, reviewed by another certified volunteer, and returned via encrypted email to the taxpayer, who can approve and give permission to file electronically.

    The tax filing season begins Feb. 12.

    “Like so many other things in this pandemic, taxes will be moving to virtual format. Sometimes that feels challenging, but I’ve been through the training and it is really easy to understand and use,” said Bonnie Bazata, who coordinates the VITA program for Pima County. “But if you still need some technology support, you can come to one of our County One-Stops for access to a computer and some help from our friendly staff.”

    For those who aren't comfortable with or don't have access to technology, here are two options:

    1. Taxpayers are invited to use computers at the Pima County One-Stops in order to start their tax refund. There are three One-Stop Centers, two for adults and one for youth (see map), with Resource Rooms and computers. There is a 45-minute time limit, which should be enough time to get your refund started. There are generally fewer customers in the afternoon and on Fridays.
    • Kino Service Center: 2797 E. Ajo Way
    • Rio Nuevo Center: 340 N. Commerce Park Loop (Tortolita Bldg.)
    • Youth Employment Center: 320 N. Commerce Park Loop (youth ages 16-24 only)
    2. Limited, and modified, in-person tax help is available with multiple options -- appointment, curbside assistance, drive-thru or drop-off. Because the pandemic might cause changes in schedules, visit this United Way webpage to check for current in-person locations and schedules.

    In the past, County staffers coordinated in-person “valet” services, but when last year’s tax season was interrupted by the pandemic, causing the cancellation of in-person VITA events, taxpayers were able to switch to GetYourRefund.org From 2016 to 2019, the Pima County VITA program served 458 taxpayers, resulting in $485,072 in tax returns and a savings of $116,250 in tax preparation. Numbers for 2020 are incomplete because of the switch to online services.