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UGA Extension offers income tax assistance through volunteer program

By for CAES News

University of Georgia Cooperative Extension is available to help residents in more than a dozen counties navigate tax season.

UGA Extension Family and Consumer Sciences agents help prepare residents to work with volunteer tax preparers who are students in the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences financial planning program and the UGA Terry College of Business’s accounting department.

The UGA students have been trained by the IRS to prepare taxes through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. The free program serves individuals who earn less than $65,000 per year and is offered to Georgians in Colquitt, Crisp, Clarke, Dougherty, Early, Elbert, Forsyth, Lanier, Lincoln, Monroe, Morgan, Oconee, Sumter, Tattnall, Tift, Washington and Wilkes counties.

Roxie Price, Tift County Extension’s Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS) agent, is in her third year of assisting local residents with their tax needs through the VITA program.

Clients provide Price with their tax documents, and she connects them with UGA students through Skype, a video chat service. Prior to the Skype appointment, clients are interviewed and complete an intake form when they bring their tax documents to the Extension office.

“We are really trying to help people who don’t have the money (for a tax preparer),” Price said. “The average cost for a simple tax return right now is approximately $120. Basically their taxes are completed when they return for the appointment. During this time, the tax preparer and reviewer go over the information with the client and we print their return.”

UGA Extension wanted to be a part of this service because it meets communities’ needs.

“Our purpose is to educate the community,” Price said. “We want them to learn to put a portion of their refund into savings for emergency reasons that may come up during the year, rather than spend it on something that may not be a necessity.”

This service also functions as a marketing tool for UGA Extension.

“Ninety-five percent of the people who come in to have their taxes prepared and filed have no idea what the Extension office is,” Price said. “It’s the perfect opportunity for me to market the Family and Consumer Sciences, 4-H, and agriculture resources available at our office.”

More than 100 people have taken advantage of the UGA Extension/VITA program in Tift County. Price hopes that there will be more.

This service will be available until April 13. Clients in participating counties must call their local UGA Extension office to make an appointment.

Julie Jernigan is an intern at UGA-Tifton.

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