It is tax season once again — the least wonderful time of the year for many people.

For some low income families, it can be a time of trepidation, because it means shelling out to have their taxes filed, according to United Way of Junction City/Geary County Director Nichole Mader.

If a family ends up owing state or federal taxes, it could mean the difference between paying rent or taking care of that tax shortfall, she said.

A program exists to help people bridge that gap, called the VITA program, put on with help from the local United Way.

It can be vital, she said, for people on fixed incomes.

Using VITA, people in households in and around Geary County with a combined income of $56,000 or less per year can file their income taxes free of charge.

People of all ages are welcome to use the service as long as they fall under those two categories.

According to Mader, the VITA program saves the community as a whole more than $150,000 each tax season by keeping those funds in the pockets of the community members who would otherwise have to pay on average about $200 to file their taxes.

“For a lot of families, when every single penny counts, we should be putting every single penny we possibly can back in their pockets,” Mader said. “That’s taking care of their children, that’s taking care of their home, taking care of themselves.”

Volunteer Cynthia Cason, who works for the IRS during the day and who has undergone strenuous training with the VITA program according to Mader, will help qualified individuals fill out their taxes.

It’s the same service, Mader said, that someone might pay for from a big-name business, but offered free of charge through this national program. Taxes, she said, may still be filed electronically through VITA, meaning refunds and deductions may be carried out electronically.

The program covers both state and federal taxes.

Appointments are available Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in 20-minute increments from 5 until 7:30 p.m., Mader said. Appointments will take place at the United Way office at 139 E. Eighth St. Suite C.

United Way is not able to provide childcare for VITA clients during their appointments.

Mader said slots are filling up quickly for the program, but there are still spaces left this month and next right up until tax day — April 15. She encourages people who qualify for the program to take advantage of it.

“If it’s a service that we can provide, use it,” Mader said.

People who want to use VITA to file their taxes this year should call the United Way at 785-238-2117 weekdays between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. to set up an appointment.

“And if anybody has any questions, they’re they’re always more than welcome to call,” Mader said. “I may not be tax efficient, but I’ve been doing it long enough. I can answer pretty basic questions.”

Coming to their appointment, they should bring all necessary paperwork and documents, a list of which can be found on the United Way’s website at www.unitedwayjcgc.org.

According to Mader, people who wish to volunteer to help with the VITA program are also welcome to call the United Way office.

“If we don’t answer please leave a voicemail letting us know that it’s for the tax season, and we’ll call them back at our earliest convenience,” she said.

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