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Volunteers provide tax-filing help

Friday, Feb. 8 | By Alisa Booze Troetschel
Chrissy Shadle, right, receives help preparing her 2012 income taxes from Volunteer Income Tax Assistance volunteer Bob Wolownik. Photo by Randy Litzinger
Tax season is here and the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program has returned to help people file their annual returns.

Lisa Funkhouser was VITA's first appointment Tuesday evening. Newly divorced, she filed bankruptcy and has no money to pay a tax preparer, she said.

After about an hour of sitting with volunteer Bob Wolownik, Funkhouser had crossed the annual rite off her to do list.

She credited Wolownik for taking his time and explaining everything to her.

"A lot of folks are afraid to do their own taxes," said Wolownik. "They're intimidated somehow."

Many come back year after year, and even bring their newly employed teenagers.

A lot of people aren't aware of tax laws, said Reginald Sykes, another VITA volunteer. Others have no time for the process, or don't want to do their taxes themselves but can't afford to pay a preparer.

This season is Sykes' second year of volunteering with VITA. He is retired, and did financial work when he was employed.

As a Warrenton resident, Sykes wanted to do something to support the community.

"I know how frustrating it is for people to get their taxes done," said Sykes. "They don't have a couple of hundred dollars to get them done."

Most of the approximately 15 volunteers who work with VITA are professionals, including lawyers and certified public accountants, said Wolownik.

Volunteers are trained on basic tax information. All must be certified by the Internal Revenue Service.

There are advanced certifications, such as dealing with stocks, alimony, mortgages, IRA distributions, rents and royalties, military pay and unemployment compensation.

Other areas of special certification include cancellation of debt and health savings accounts.
This year VITA moved from its Sullivan Street location to the Warrenton Community Center at 430 East Shirley Avenue, Building C, Warrenton.

VITA is supported by People, Inc., through answering phones and making appointments, and NVACash, which donates office supplies.

Last year VITA filed about 300 tax returns. This year's goal is an ambitious 500 returns. However, Wolownik is concerned about having sufficient volunteers to handle the load.

Call (540) 724-7829 for an appointment from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays or 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays.

Only people who make $51,000 a year or less are eligible for the free tax preparation service.

Applicants must also have less than or equal to $5,000 in business expenses.
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