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taxJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
Gary Johns, left, of Cortland, gets tax preparation help from SUNY Cortland business major Miguel Polanco on Saturday at the Access to Independence facility in Cortland.

SUNY Cortland volunteers provide free tax prep help

By TYRONE L. HEPPARD
Staff Reporter

Filing income taxes can be frustrating, but a group of residents and SUNY Cortland students involved with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program are attempting to make tax preparation just a bit easier.
The Cortland Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program was created in 2005 and supported by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cortland County to help residents get free, one-on-one assistance with tax preparation. Volunteers travel to locations across the county to provide help. On Saturday, they were assisting local residents at the Access to Independence headquarters on North Main Street in Cortland.
“We do tax preparations for individuals for relatively straightforward taxes,” site coordinator Raimona Rowe said. “Basically it’s small businesses without depreciation, individuals with jobs, straightforward retirement (and) anyone making under $54,000 a year. We’ll do prior year returns as well.”
The process takes about a half hour, during which IRS-certified staff will help file tax returns and answer taxpayers’ questions.
VITA members helped residents file 600 tax returns last year, and Rowe said she hopes even more people will seek tax preparation services this year. Residents are encouraged to schedule appointments in advance, but walk-ins can be accommodated at the Access to Independence site.
“On Saturdays and Sundays, we’ll encourage people to walk in in the afternoon because it’s kind of slower,” Rowe said. “They show up with their stuff, they do that much (and) I’m going to try to get them in.”

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