Free tax service offers new opportunities
Story by Megan Boatwright
Eyewitness News Reporter
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)-- Tax season is upon us and Saturday the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga kicked off its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program.
The VITA program provides free tax help for anyone who earns less than $50,000 a year and is a much needed service for those who can't afford an accountant.
These are people who rely on their tax return money to pay medical bills, even rent.
Eyewitness News talked to a woman who's been hitching rides since her car was in an accident last year. Saturday she found out her tax return cash is enough to buy a car.
"It's wonderful, I don't have to come back, I'll just be waiting on my money," says Tara Pines.
For Tara Pines, the trip to Eastgate Town Center was well worth the effort. She says she and her husband definitely can't afford the cost of a professional tax service.
This is the fifth year the Urban League, with help from the IRS and the city of Chattanooga, have put on a volunteer tax assistance program. They say the idea is to help low or moderate income individuals save as much of their tax money as possible.
"I had some free time and I enjoy helping people and meeting people," says IRS Counselor Joe Downs.
Joe downs has been a certified IRS tax counselor for nine years. He's volunteering his time to help customers like Tara Pines.
"It's a lot of fun, you get to meet different kinds of people, all kinds of people and it's nice to chat with them," says Downs.
The city and IRS provide money for computers and paper.
Through the Urban League of Chattanooga, VITA has offered this free service to the community for five years.
Last year they helped over 4,000 families and individuals, returning 4-million dollars to taxpayers. All this is money that often times goes straight back into the local economy.
"It's been sort of rough, but like I said, making it," says Pines.
Pines, who works as a housekeeper at a nursing home, lost her car in an accident four months ago.
Since then she's had to pay family members for rides. Saturday she found out she's getting enough back on her return to put towards a car.
"When I leave out the door, if I see somebody, I will recommend that they come," says Pines.
To qualify for the free service, your income level as to be $50,000 or less. People can take advantage of the VITA program until April 18th. Call 311 for more info.