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Programs Offer Free Help With Tax-Return Preparation

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The Internal Revenue Service and the Illinois Department of Revenue began accepting 2017 individual tax returns Jan. 29. Groups around the state and nation are participating in a program to provide free help to those who qualify.

This is the ninth year Goodwill Industries of Northern Illinois has offered free tax preparation and filing for individuals and families who earn less than $54,000 annually. Goodwill Financial Programs Manager Jason Haller said it’s one of many Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or VITA, programs in Illinois that must meet IRS standards.

“Everyone passes a certification test through the IRS,” he said. “The IRS then oversees our tax sites to see that the sites are running as they should.”

Haller said that makes them a great alternative to commercial tax firms

“You know, individuals call,” he said. “We do an appointment with them. They come in. They get their taxes done. And it’s all free to them. It’s a really neat service that a lot of people can take advantage of.”

Haller said Goodwill volunteers helped more than 2300 people in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin with their taxes last year, saving them more than $375,000 in preparation fees.  

Goodwill and others also offer free online filing to anyone making up to $66,000 through the United Way’s My Free Taxes Program

People wanting help can go to the IRS website to find an online tool that will locate the nearest VITA provider.  

Guy Stephens produces news stories for the station, and coordinates our online events calendar, PSAs and Arts Calendar announcements. In each of these ways, Guy helps keep our listening community informed about what's going on, whether on a national or local level. Guy's degrees are in music, and he spent a number of years as a classical host on WNIU. In fact, after nearly 20 years with Northern Public Radio, the best description of his job may be "other duties as required."