VITA program provides crucial tax assistance for Siouxlanders

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Briar Cliff University student Danielle Russel and Herb Kuehnel, volunteer tax preparers, help low income taxpayers as part of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. Photo by Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal

SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Linda Castillo paid almost $100 to get help preparing her income tax return a few years ago. Since that time, the Sioux City woman has twice gotten free help with her return through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.

"It's great. It's really helpful to people who are veterans or low-income or on a fixed income," Castillo said, after plopping a pile of needed papers onto the desk of a volunteer tax preparer.

“I literally had a guy hug me. We got flowers, a lady brought in jelly beans.”

— Erica Hoffman ('15), VITA coordinator

The tax help program is operated out of the Center for Siouxland, at 715 Douglas St. Those who make less than $52,400 annually can get free assistance. The program runs into May, a few weeks past the April 15 federal filing deadline. It is funded through United Way money.

[Every accounting major at Briar Cliff assists with the VITA program, through a three-credit VITA course.]

VITA coordinator Erica Carter, a continuing education student at Briar Cliff, directs nearly 50 Internal Revenue Service-certified volunteers who aim to help 1,500 Siouxland residents file taxes this tax season. Last year, 1,390 people used the program.

More than 500 people were helped in February. Carter said recent clients this week included a 99-year-old woman, a military veteran and a woman who owns a cleaning business. That woman is getting a federal tax refund, which will allow her to buy a car instead of using the bus.

"I literally had a guy hug me. We got flowers, a lady brought in jelly beans," Carter said. "Everyday I leave work in a really good mood, because we have so many people who are appreciative of the service."

Read the full Sioux City Journal article →


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