Free tax assistance from UGA VITA program

Filing taxes is intimidating for many people, luckily UGA’s partnership with Georgia United Credit Union and the IRS offers free tax preparation for Georgia residents.

The UGA Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program has provided free tax preparation services to Athens and surrounding areas for over 15 years and recently added a virtual component that allows for statewide access for online tax filing.

Last year, with the help of UGA Cooperative Extension and Georgia United Credit Union, UGA VITA reached residents in 70 Georgia counties and contributed an estimated $4 million economic impact based on tax preparation fees and federal refunds.

For starters, most people are legally required to file taxes. “Some people who wouldn’t file a tax return are those who have 100% of their income coming from Social Security benefits,” FACS professor Lance Palmer said. The benefits to filing a tax return are to claim withheld taxes, claim credits you may be eligible for and even to protect against identity theft.

“The Internal Revenue Service is cracking down on ID theft, but there’s still a lot of theft,” Palmer said. “One of the easiest ways to make sure somebody is not filing a false return using your Social Security number is to file a tax return each year.”

Unless you file a tax return, you won’t benefit from tax credits you may be eligible for such as the Earned Income Tax credit, which helps low- to moderate-income workers and families get a tax break and potentially increase their refund.

It’s estimated that between $5 million and $15 million in Earned Income Tax Credit goes unclaimed in Athens-Clarke County alone due to taxes not being filed.

“College students, low-income workers, parents … all of these people are eligible for tax credits, and they may not know it unless they file a tax return,” Palmer said. “People often overestimate what they save by not filing a tax return and underestimate what they lose.”

UGA VITA program helps you save money while giving UGA students necessary experience. Tax preparers for the program are students in FACS, the Terry College of Business and School of Social Work. These students work with real clients and prepare taxes under the supervision of trained faculty members.

The program provides free tax preparation assistance to individuals and families with low to moderate income, those with disabilities and the elderly and offers both in-person and virtual sessions.

Click here or call (706) 592-8942 to find a VITA site near you or to make an appointment. 

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