Volunteering for VITA!
April 15th has always been just a normal calendar day for me. My family hires a CPA to take care of our taxes every year, so they have never been much more than a passing thought in my daily life. But as I have grown up and taken on more “adult” responsibilities, I have looked at my own taxes and realized that they are incredibly difficult! It is confusing language, difficult math, and lines leading to more lines. It’s nearly impossible to make heads or tails out of any of it. But as I have branched away from relying on my family and done more of my own taxes each year, I have come to learn how to file basic taxes. I have had the chance to learn because I am surrounded by people who know how to help me, but I also know that I am lucky in that and not everyone has those same people around them. I found myself wondering how others learn how to correctly file their own taxes.
When I initially heard about the opportunity to volunteer for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, I thought about how helpful it could really be. Here was the answer to my question: I could help others who did not know tax law, and are not as lucky as I am to be able to rely on someone else to take care of their taxes for them. They too are confused by all of that governmental jargon, but without VITA, have no one to turn to. It is incredibly enjoyable watching the look on people’s faces as they hear about the credits and deductions they have never claimed before. Many are receiving a bigger tax refund check than they have ever received. We as volunteers are not there to be police for the IRS; instead, we are there to help almost anyone and everyone who needs help with this confusing process that many people take for granted. We are trying to help people claim their money that often just sits in the pocket of the government because taxes are just so tricky.
One of my favorite stories took place on my first day at the volunteer site. I was a little bit nervous about my first return, and my heart was definitely pounding as I looked through the intake sheet each person fills out as they come through the door. In front of me sat an older man who lived with his brother, played concerts on the side, and had never received a tax return before because he had always ended up owing the government. As we went through his return, he told funny stories of what it was like to be a violinist and kept us laughing the entire time. After I had finished entering all of his information, filed all of his income, and sorted through all of the deductions and credits, he had a return of over $2000. This was huge news for him because he had come in with the expectation of paying us! He left our site with a smile on his face, and left us all with a little bit of joy in our hearts.
This year, April 15th will have much more value for me. It will not only mark the end of tax season, but the end of my year with VITA. However, it will also signify months of hard work, laughs, and lots of money for lots of people. VITA is one of the best volunteer programs to be a part of, and I am so excited to have had the opportunity. This is something I hope to be involved with for many years to come.
Find volunteer opportunities in your area at www.nevadavolunteers.volunteermatch.org!