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Michelle Ingham

The United Way of Lancaster County’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program is now scheduling appointments for tax preparation.

The Lancaster VITA is one of more than 12,000 VITA programs across the country that help people file their taxes every year completely free of charge. The service is available to anyone who makes $62,000 or less and lives in Lancaster County.

This year, in response to the pandemic, VITA has modified the way it delivers services in order to keep both clients and volunteers safe.

VITA now offers a totally contactless, virtual option through a partnership with “Get Your Refund.” Beginning Jan. 25, “Get Your Refund” will allow clients to securely upload their tax information and documents. They will then receive a call from an IRS-certified tax preparer who will prepare the tax return, review it with them, then send a secure email file with the completed return.

There will also be Free File options and limited “Drop-off” appointments at several locations throughout Lancaster County.

“VITA helps individuals and families in Lancaster County who need it most by keeping their hard-earned money in their pockets. Tax time provides many low and moderate-income clients with the opportunity pay bills, pay down debt, and to save for their future”, said Michelle Ingham, Director of Financial Stability at the United Way of Lancaster County.

“Our virtual and “drop-off” VITA sites will begin on Jan. 25, so we can ensure that our clients receive their refund as quickly as they can. VITA brings millions of dollars back into our local economy through refunds and valuable tax credits like the Earned Income Credit (EITC) and Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC).”

Taxpayers should file their tax returns as early as possible. “Don’t let people take advantage of you by claiming to be able to get you a quicker refund,” Ingham said. “High-interest loans and short-term advances on your refund cost you more in the long run.”

To schedule a “Drop-off” appointment at one of VITA’s tax preparation sites around Lancaster County, call the United Way's 211 referral service. Taxpayers can schedule appointments online, obtain information about VITA locations, eligibility requirements, and other details by visiting www.FreeTaxPrepLancaster.org.

VITA also offers a free online program that allows taxpayers to file federal and state tax returns at www.MyFreeTaxes.com.

The volunteer tax preparers at VITA go through at least 40 hours of tax law training and are certified by the IRS. Customers get high-quality, professional service by trained volunteers who are equipped to identify tax refund opportunities for customers.

Last year, VITA helped more than 9,400 individuals and families in Lancaster County complete their tax returns. They received over $12 million in refunds and saved almost $2.6 million in tax preparation fees. Over 1,550 tax returns were completed after the state Covid-19 shutdown during the extended tax season.

United Way of Lancaster County’s VITA program is sponsored by Fulton Bank, Ephrata National Bank, and PNC Bank. In addition, VITA receives funding from the Internal Revenue Service.

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