T he Washington County Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program continues to grow.
Joan Prouty, coordinator of the program, gave a detailed report to the Washington County Board of Supervisors last week and the number of taxpayers who took advantage of the program this year grew by more than 5 percent.
According to Prouty, volunteers scheduled 1,012 appointments and completed 975 tax returns. Those returns resulted in more than $2 million in refunds, a 6 percent increase from a year ago.
“There has been tremendous growth since we started. Eleven years ago the total refund was $229,000,” Prouty said.
The Washington County Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, was started 11 years ago and provides free tax preparation services to people who earn less than $52,000 a year. Prouty said the program is a partnership between several different organizations, including Cornell Cooperative Extension of Washington County, Women Infants and Children, Social Services, the Tri-County United Way, Warren and Washington County Mental Health and the Internal Revenue Service.
Although the program is administrated by paid staffers, it relies almost entirely on volunteers.
Prouty said volunteers answered more than 1,300 phone calls and worked 1,709 hours.
The program served taxpayers from 49 different zip codes and 72 percent of filers were returning clients.
She estimated the services saved tax payers more than $240,000 if instead they had chosen to have their taxes done by a paid preparer.