A popular program that offered free tax-preparation assistance to local residents in the past has been resurrected after an absence of several years.
Although taxation issues are not on the minds of most citizens at this time of year, volunteers are now being sought for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.
“We’re gearing up for the next tax season,” explained Jane Surratt, manager of the Surry County Senior Center, which will conduct the program with the Retired Senior Volunteer Program of YVEDDI (Yadkin Valley Economic Development District Inc.). They are partnering with the Internal Revenue Service.
The VITA program in Surry County provided a valuable service to low-to-moderate income citizens for a number of years before being discontinued after the 2013 tax season.
Surratt, who was not associated with the Surry Senior Center at that time, said the then-coordinator of the tax program — a key component in making it work — died, and no replacement was found.
“So it just was dropped,” she said.
“Surry County has not had a VITA program for a few years now, and people have been having to travel to East Bend, Elkin, Boonville and Yadkinville to get their taxes prepared,” Surratt added.
After she became manager of the Surry County Senior Center, an older gentleman showed up one day and dropped a stack of papers on her desk.
Surratt was taken aback by that. “I did not know what the VITA program was,” she recalled. “I checked around — he had been coming to get his taxes done.”
Steps subsequently were taken to make sure that scenario isn’t repeated in the future. “And we got this VITA program up and going again,” Surratt said.
“We have a coordinator (now),” she mentioned this week, along with a new location for the service — previously offered at the center on Jones School Road — everything needed to green-light its return.
“I am excited to announce that we now have the go-ahead to set up a VITA program here in Mount Airy, at the Mount Airy Public Library.”
It will be offered beginning in January and running through mid-April, focusing on basic tax assistance with both federal and state returns. This will occur through an appointment process to begin before the program starts.
Free tax preparation generally will be offered to those with incomes of $54,000 or below who need help.
In the meantime, some “qualified and eager volunteers” are sought to supply the service, with Surratt pointing out that organizers are trying to amass a pool of individuals now so training can be provided for them before the tax season arrives.
“We’ve got so many talented people in the community,” she said of individuals with backgrounds tailor-made for the program, such as retired accountants or bankers.
Surratt says VITA involvement is a great opportunity to put their skills to work to help the community. It also offers a way for college and high school students to gain valuable experience that stands out on resumes.
Those interested can contact Missy Whitaker at 336-415-4247 or Jane Surratt at 336-415-4225 for more information.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.