VITA To Kick Off Season

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program kicks off the 2013 season Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the James Prendergast Library in Jamestown.

For more than a decade, the VITA program has helped thousands of local taxpayers collect millions of dollars in tax refunds. It is sponsored each year by the Chautauqua County Earned Income Tax Credit Coalition. Throughout the tax season, IRS-trained volunteers prepare returns for income-eligible residents, helping them qualify for credits, including the Earned Income Tax Credit. In 2012, nearly $3 million was returned to the local economy because of the VITA program.

“It’s an essential program to the people we serve, and to Chautauqua County as a whole,” said Rose Lancione, VITA coordinator. “When people have more money to spend, that helps us all. Our goal each year is to help eligible taxpayers get the largest refund possible.”

Charlie Heinz, a VITA volunteer, said putting a smile on someone’s face when they realize they’re getting a larger refund makes it all worth it.

“It’s why I help out,” Heinz said. “These families we’re helping are so grateful for the service we’re providing. The fact that it’s free is just icing on the cake.”

To qualify for the program, working families must have earned less than $50,000 in 2012. VITA sites will be staffed through April 15 in Jamestown, Falconer and Sinclairville. All sites require an appointment by dialing 211. Eligible residents can also file their own returns for free by visiting and clicking on the VITA link on the homepage. Most returns are filed electronically, with refunds in as few as 10 days.