Tax Break

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program is not free of participant gripes.

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program is not free of participant gripes.

To use a cliché in offering words of wisdom to participants of the Internal Revenue Service’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program – don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

VITA has been offered at Temple’s Main Campus for the past few years. The program offers free tax assistance three days a week to families with incomes below $50,000 or individuals with incomes below $20,000 between Jan. 26 and April 10.

Program participants last week, however, were not satisfied with the service. They complained of long lines, disorganization and being turned away and told to return on other days due to the high volume of service-seeking individuals. While some who were able to complete their taxes were grateful, the number of people who were dissatisfied with the service is surprising, considering the program is free for those who qualify.

On H&R Block’s Web site, most tax help costs at least $30, if not more, except the “H&R Block at Home” kit, which is marketed as free but lists “pay when you file” fees in fine print. Turbo Tax offers a free online download of its most basic tax return program, with other programs costing from around $30 to as much as $75.

Temple’s VITA program helps clients free of charge. Volunteers run it, and participants get 100 percent of their refunds back, unlike major tax-preparation companies that either charge from the get-go or take a cut of the refund to make profit.

Still, those who complain about the program, which Temple is not required to offer, seem a little ungrateful. It is not the volunteers’ faults the program may be understaffed or garners such a high turnout. They should appreciate receiving the help for free, rather than complain about the program’s shortcomings.

The program runs through April, so those who were recently turned away due to the high volume of participants can re-attend the program.

Furthermore, VITA is not new. If participants have used the program before, they should expect the wait. And, if VITA organizers have seen the number of participants increase over the years, they should work to improve the program. While their time and efforts are greatly appreciated, small moves, such as recruiting more volunteers, should be made to help the program run more smoothly.

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