Aging Matters: Free help makes tax time easier – Valley Advantage

With so many programs and services available in our community, it is often difficult to narrow down a topic. While Valentines Day is a tempting topic, we thought it best to lean towards the more practical subject of tax preparations and rent and property tax rebates.

If you haven’t noticed, the United Way of Lackawanna and Wayne Counties is featured quite a bit in this column, primarily because they do so much. An example of this is the VITA Program. VITA stands for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. It is specifically designed for individuals making less than $57,000 per year who are seniors, disabled or have limited English proficiency. Thanks to the United Way and the University of Scranton, we have a very successful program operating in our community for nearly 15 years.

In its lifetime, the program has served 25,510 people, helping them bring in $24,254,763 in refunds. Out of those dollars, $7,284,656 were earned income tax credits. When you think about those numbers, you must respect and be grateful for the volunteers who make this happen. They saved people more than $3,579,850 in tax preparation fees.

Taxes are a serious business. Some people might be skeptical of a volunteer handling their filing. You should know there is always a certified public accountant on site at every clinic. Accounting majors from the University of Scranton and Penn State Scranton are a core group of volunteers and the Retired Senior Volunteer Program has volunteers on site as well. Everyone handling the tax returns has passed a vigorous IRS Certification Program. In other words, you are in very good hands.

United Way goes through great lengths to make sure there is ample access for seniors throughout the entire county. Aside from Scranton, you will find clinics in Carbondale, North Pocono, Hawley, and the Abingtons. The Keyser Valley Community Center is a very convenient Scranton location which also serves the Taylor, Moosic and Old Forge communities. These locations are accessible through appointments only. To make an appointment, you can go online at www.uwlc.net or you can just call 2-1-1. If the weather is not so great on the day of your appointment, 211 will call you to cancel and reschedule.

The University of Scranton hosts walk-in appointments on certain days in Room 111 in Brennan Hall, 320 Madison Ave., Scranton. If you need assistance or have any questions, please call 570-941-7977.

There are some very important items you need to bring with you to the appointment. Please make sure you have the following:

A valid photo ID.

Social Security card, including everyone’s you are claiming on

the return.

Last year’s tax return.

Others on the 1099.

Any records related to income or expenses.

Any health insurance documents (1095-A, 1095-B, 1095-C).

A voided personal check.

Real estate tax receipts.

For grandparents raising grandchildren bring:

Form 8332 for non-custodial parents.

Letter 6419, 2021 Advance Child Tax Credits.

Letter 6475, 2021 economic impact payment.

These documents are essential to a speedy return. Don’t be nervous or afraid to ask for assistance with any of these documents. This program is here to help you, not just process your taxes.

Lastly, I want to mention the PA Department of Revenue’s Property Tax/Rent rebate program. If you are 65, a widow or widower over the age of 50, or age 18 and older living with a disability and you make less than $35,000 as a homeowner or less than $15,000 as a renter a year you can qualify for a $650 rebate. In some cases, a homeowner can qualify for $975. You can get help with this through VITA or we can help you with this at the Area Agency on Aging.

This program, like so many others I mention here, relies on the PA Lottery to fund the refunds. We are very lucky to have this system in place, and we must always make sure we are watching to make sure it is being used appropriately. It is also very important to support it by playing it, if you are able to.

Take advantage of what our partners have to offer to you. The help is free, professional and in many instances a life saver. This is just another example of some great work being done by amazing partners in the community.

Jason Kavulich is the director of Lackawanna County’s Area Agency on Aging. For more information on services available call 570-963-6740.