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  • Tax-prep program is back, now offers do-it-yourself classes

    Feb 07, 2022 | Read More News
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    By Martin Rosales
    Pima County Communications

    With tax season getting underway, Pima County and the United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona are bringing back Valet VITA, a tax-preparation program available to families with a household income of $73,000 or less.
     Valet VITA
    Valet VITA offers free tax-preparation services for individuals and families with a
    household income of $73,000 or less.

    Valet VITA is now entering its seventh year, said Bonnie Bazata, manager of Pima County’s Ending Poverty Now program. Unlike last year, however, when the program was done entirely virtually due to the pandemic, participants will be able to again turn in their documents in person.

    Valet VITA for the first time will also offer do-it-yourself classes for those who want to learn how to prepare their own taxes or don’t qualify for the free tax preparation.

    Bazata, who initiated Valet VITA when she joined Pima County and has coordinated it ever since, says the program seeks to make tax preparation less daunting.

    “Taxes can be a headache and can be overwhelming and time-consuming,” Bazata said. “I wanted to help expand the United Way’s high-quality and free tax-assistance program known as VITA (for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance). Because Pima County has such a big footprint in the community, we could open up access to VITA using County facilities and outreach.”

    The “Valet” in Valet VITA comes from the fact that taxpayers drop off their tax documents with program volunteers provided by the United Way. The volunteers then scan and upload those documents to a secure server. In one to two weeks, the taxpayers can pick up their complete returns or have them emailed.

    Valet VITA will be available for a total of 12 days over six weeks at three County facilities. Dates and locations include:
    • Feb. 15-16 and Feb. 22-23: Abrams Public Health Center, 3950 S. Country Club Road, Room 318;
    • March 1-2 and March 8-9: Kino Service Center, 2797 E. Ajo Way; and
    • March 15-16 and March 22-23: Rio Nuevo Service Center, 340 N. Commerce Park Loop in the Tortolita Building
    Services hours at all three sites will be Tuesdays from noon to 5 p.m. and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

    To learn about other times available throughout the city, go to unitedwaytucson.org/vita to make an appointment. These services are available only to people who are fully vaccinated.  See the United Way website for details.

    In 2019, the last year in which Valet VITA compiled figures prior to the pandemic, the program served 200 taxpayers, handled $230,000 worth of tax returns and was able to save consumers $50,000 in tax-preparation fees, according to the United Way. That year, Valet VITA tax preparers were also able to find clients a combined $80,000 in earned-income tax credits, the United Way said.

    “I really had two groups in mind when I initiated Valet VITA, lower-income families that we serve and County employees,” Bazata said. “For lower-income families, a tax return, particularly the child tax credit, can make a huge different to their family’s income.

    “For our County employees and other busy working people, the Valet VITA programs means that you can get your taxes done in 15 to 30 minutes. By making VITA available at many County offices, it makes it easy to take care of on your lunch hour or on the way home. It’s a way of saying thank you for being a public servant.”

    For those who don’t qualify for free tax preparation or who want to learn how to prepare taxes on their own, the new DIY classes will be held at the Kino Service Center, 2797 E. Ajo Way, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 17, March 2 and March 15.

    Be it through Valet VITA or DIY classes, Pima County and the United Way are here to make tax season a little less taxing.