The Cooperative Ministry has locations across the Midlands where volunteers prepare taxes for South Carolinians for free thanks to an IRS-funded program.
COLUMBIA, SC — Tax season is in full swing, and to ease the burden on working families, a Midlands non-profit is offering tax preparation services for free.
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, called “VITA”, is an IRS program that The Cooperative Ministry offers to the Midlands.
“It’s a program for lower-income taxpayers to get free tax help so they don’t go to a pop-up neighborhood location and pay hundreds of dollars to get their taxes prepared,” Ed Palekas, director of sustainability programs for The Cooperative Ministry said. He said that almost all of their 24 Midlands locations accept walk-ups for tax help. To find a VITA location near you, click here.
Taxpayers must bring required tax documents such as W-2s and 1099s, photo identification, and social security cards for themselves and dependents. If a taxpayer is married, they need to come with their spouse. The Cooperative Ministry has a full list of required documents online.
According to the IRS, VITA is available to people who generally make $58,000 a year or less, people with disabilities, and taxpayers that speak limited English.
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When taxpayers walk into a Cooperative Ministry location, they sit down to answer some questions, and then the rest is handled and e-filed by certified volunteers for free.
“It’s very gratifying,” said Palekas. “You do get the ‘thank you,’ you do get the sense of relief that comes from the taxpayer, that ‘okay this is done, I don’t have to worry about it,’ it’s a good feeling.”
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Palekas added that they helped over 10,000 people in the Midlands last year through the IRS-funded program. If you want to volunteer, The Cooperative Ministry will get you trained and certified, no experience necessary. “We’re always looking for help,” said Palekas.
According to the South Carolina Department of Revenue, other free tax services include myfreetaxes.com, which is a service provided by United Way and H&R Block.
Plus, the AARP Foundation offers free tax help for the elderly, even if you’re not a member.
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