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Some new things you should know:
If you come to one of our sites without first calling to get an appointment, we may not be there at the end of a scheduled time slot if you come after we've helped the last person who did make an appointment. So we encourage you to call for an appointment before you come! There is one exception: we will always stay until at least 4:30pm when we are at Access to Independence.
If you meet either of these qualifications, IRS Certified tax preparers in the VITA program will prepare your taxes for free!
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The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program started operating in Cortland County in 2005, supported by the Cornell Cooperative Extension. Over the years, Barb Henza, Cornell Cooperative’s Financial Educator, grew the program which has to date completed 4,563 tax returns for individuals under the income threshold. Barb developed a partnership with Cortland County Community Action Program (CAPCO), and the State University of New York’s College at Cortland (SUNY) along the way, training volunteers and coordinating outreach to the more rural parts of the county. Unfortunately,Cornell Cooperative Extension could no longer support the program in the manner to which it had become accustomed, but some new partners came onto the scene.
Alternatives Credit Union, the coordinators of an expansive VITA program in Tompkins County, stepped up to help us find funding, get laptops and provided guidance throughout the tax season. In addition, Access to Independence, the United Presbyterian Church of Cortland, the Cortland YWCA, and Cortland-Chenango Rural Services were all willing to host our volunteers. In the spring of 2014, with the assistance of these partners, our VITA volunteers were able to prepare returns for 608 Cortland County households with an average gross income of under $16,000. SUNY Cortland students provided over 1,400 volunteer hours, earning valuable real world experience.
The VITA program is sustained through the efforts of local volunteers. In the past, the VITA program has benefitted from the talents of retired lawyers and other professionals. Moving into the future, we would like to invite anyone interested in braving the winter to join our fall class, hosted by SUNY Cortland. The class meets once per week for 5-6 weeks and will cover the basics of tax preparation. Upon completion of the class, volunteers may choose to take the IRS exam and become a tax preparer or volunteer with the program by taking appointments and acting as a receptionist at our tax sites. Everyone is welcome regardless of experience or level of commitment.
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