Bethany's Journey From Client to Volunteer

In 2009, Bethany needed help filing her taxes. She was working full time and recovering from a divorce, and wanted to make every penny of her tax return count for her family. She knew that using a tax preparer service would cost her more money, and she needed those extra dollars to use towards her bills and savings.

Filing taxes can be an expensive burden for low to moderate income families and elderly citizens. Each year as part of our financial stability work we offer free income tax filings for Bartholomew County residents like Bethany who make $54,000 or less annually. IRS certified volunteers take appointments from February through April to help save local taxpayers money on fees. Our volunteer income tax assistance program is meant to help Bethany and others save and keep more of their hard earned money in their pockets.

Bethany filed her taxes for free that year through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program and is one of thousands who have saved money through the service. “It’s been a great experience, that’s why I keep coming back,” says Bethany. “I tell everybody about it. I work with a lot of different people, and I tell them because I think it’s a great service. I don’t know why more people don’t use it.”

This year’s VITA program served 1,112 clients at various locations in Bartholomew County and helped these residents save $195,712 in tax preparer fees. $743,964 was returned into taxpayers’ pockets through the VITA program, money that clients can use for savings, family planning and debt reduction.

Bethany greeting a VITA client at the United Way building in Columbus. 

 

Bethany has returned to file her taxes through the VITA program every year since 2009, and decided this year that she’d like to give back to the service that’s helped her save money. This year, she volunteered to greet incoming VITA clients and help them prepare their personal information before their appointments. “I was really touched by the commitment of each preparer, each greeter and I thought ‘You know, I can’t necessarily as a single mother give back financially, but I can give back some of my time,’” says Bethany. Bethany enjoyed her time as a VITA volunteer, getting to know other volunteers and learned more about the program than she did as a participant. “I had no idea behind the scenes how many tax preparers it took to run this. It’s rather mind blowing, in a good way. I hope to be able to volunteer more next year,” Bethany says.

“It’s about helping others,” she says. “That’s the whole key, I think. That’s the whole bottom line. A lot of the people who come in to get these services may not know any other way to get their taxes done. I still wouldn’t be comfortable doing my own taxes by myself on my own computer. The benefit is being able to provide a service free of charge, accurate and reliable. Each year, I have always gotten a refund.”