Free tax help is available in the valley

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Tax season is officially under way.

Saturday, some taxpayers in the Mahoning Valley  didn’t have to pay a dime to file their return.

“We prepare the federal, state and local income tax for people and Efile  for them,” said Dr. Ray Shaffer, YSU Accounting Professor. “Everything is free.”

It’s all done free of charge through the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance,  also known as VITA. Tax Counseling for Seniors is also part of the program.

The United Way helps secure grant money from the IRS for the program.

There are income requirements to get your taxes filed for free.

“It’s in the $50 to 60 thousand dollar range,” said Shaffer.  “We also try to prepare for people who have small businesses in their home or rental property, again if they’re within  our guidelines and within the limits we can do.”

Shaffer said not much has changed for filing this year. He did point out a new deduction on the state level.

“Self employed people in the state of Ohio can  deduct up to  50 percent of their self  employment income to a certain limit; to a maximum,” he said.

YSU students, who have gone through online IRS training helped file tax returns at the Williamson College of Business and Administration.

“On top of that they gave us examples  that we could go through and enter prior to us coming in today to enter actual tax preparation,” said Julie Mirich, YSU, accounting student.

Every return is checked by a certified reviewer and gets reviewed at another level.

“Our goal is to have zero  errors on any return,” said Shaffer.

Shelley Stevens, of Youngstown has been getting her taxes down through VITA for 12 years.

“I could probably go  to a regular tax adjuster or a tax place, but this for me, I just  love the way the students do this every year,” she said.

More than 3,000 tax returns were filed through the program last year. The United Way said refunds totaled more than $3 million.

The free tax service is part of the Mahoning Valley Economic Opportunity Coalition. The United Way help sponsor it along with a number of other agencies like AARP and Compass Family and Community Services.

Free tax preparation takes place at a number of places in the Valley, including public libraries. It’s best to call for an appointment.

“Literally almost any day of the week somebody can get their taxes done for free somewhere,” said Shaffer.

The program runs through mid April.

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