During their second tax season in Gulf County, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program helped eligible taxpayers earn refunds totaling $167,222 at their Wewahitchka and Port St. Joe locations. These taxpayers had combined amounts owed of $144,133.
Taxpayers served this filing season had total income of $9.1 million.
The program had 16 volunteers, tax preparers and greeters, who volunteered a combined total of 962 hours during the 76-day period they operated the tax sites.
“Our VITA team is very proud of our successful second tax filing season with a sizable increase of almost 45 percent in taxpayers we served compared to the 2022 tax filing season,” the organizations said in a press release.
VITA sites offer free tax help to people who need assistance in preparing their own returns, including people who generally make less than $58,000, persons with disabilities and limited English-speaking taxpayers. The local program is coordinated by United Way of Northwest Florida.
Joan Hill, who first had the idea to bring the program to the area, has been volunteering with VITA in other cities for more than five years.
“My sister lives here… and I thought ‘well gee, let me go spend some time over there with her this winter. I’ll just volunteer at a tax site there,’” she said last year, while getting the program up and running in Gulf County. “And then I was like ‘oh, there is no tax site here.’ I guess I can see if I can get one started.”
The two public libraries in Gulf Counties volunteered to host the service, giving them a space to meet with locals and process tax returns.
“A special shout of thanks goes to Mimi Minnick and to Joyelle Linton, who were kind enough to give us space in their libraries from which we could operate our two tax sites from January 30 through April 15,” the press release said.
Tax returns prepared and filed totaled 252 federal tax returns and 20 state tax returns for 2022.