By STEVE EIGHINGER
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
The United Way of Adams County Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program established a record this week for most preparations done in its seven-year history — and there are still more than three weeks before the April 15 filing deadline.
Stephanie Erwin, who is the financial stability coordinator for United Way, said more than 525 returns had been finished, helping bring individuals and families more than $1.04 million in federal and state refunds. That's a far cry from the 16 returns the program did in its first year in 2007.
"We'll remain busy through at least the beginning of April," Erwin said. "One of the best parts of this is all of the people you get to meet."
Fourteen volunteers are on hand to assist 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and some Saturdays.
Individuals and families who earned less than $50,000 are eligible for the free assistance.
Appointments are required.
"We expanded our offerings this year to include drop-off appointments and optional financial counseling," Erwin said. "These new opportunities have been a great addition to the program and have been well-received by clients and volunteers."
Drop-off appointments are for clients who want to review their information with a volunteer and come back a day or two later when the return is ready to be filed. The financial counseling is provided by a certified volunteer and includes one-on-one coaching on budgeting, debt reduction and savings.
Through the first six years of the program, more than $1.8 million in savings and tax credits for more than 1,800 individuals and families were secured. With more than $1 million already secured his year, there is an outside chance the program could account for more through refunds this tax season than it had over the first six years combined.
"This is a program that has grown steadily," said Laura Hyde, a communications associate at United Way. "In that first year, the refunds were only $1,848."
Erwin adds, "And all of the money we are saving people is going back into our community."
In addition to appointments at United Way, 936 Broadway, volunteers will travel on Tuesday to do tax preparations at Adams Telephone Co-operative, 405 Emminga Road, for residents in the Camp Point-Golden area.
Call United Way at (217) 222-5020 to make appointments or for more information.