The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is an IRS initiative designed to promote and support free tax preparation service for the under-served, in both urban and non-urban locations.
The VITA program offers free tax help to people who generally make $57,000 or less, persons with disabilities, the elderly and limited English speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals.
For more information, see the IRS VITA page.
A little bit about us...
The 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 700 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.
In May of 2022, after many years of serving their community and ours, Alternatives Credit Union opted to close their VITA program. This might have meant no more Cortland VITA had it not been for the quick work of Seven Valley Health Coalition to establish themselves as an IRS partner agency and continue this program in Cortland County.