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VITA program offers free tax services


Linda Geist
University of Missouri Extension
Phone: 573-882-9185

Published: Monday, Feb. 24, 2014

Story source:

Shatomi Luster, 816-482-5850

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Edwin Cooper of Raytown returned to work after retirement to support his three grandchildren. Every penny counts. That’s why he uses the free tax filing services offered by the University of Missouri Extension’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program and AmeriCorps.

Cooper said he used to see an accountant for tax services. But he now keeps the $400 it cost for the accountant’s services to feed and clothe his grandchildren. “I will have to pay in (taxes),” he said, “but it lessens the damage. It is a tremendous help.”

He is among the thousands who will have their taxes prepared and filed electronically by a 10-member AmeriCorps team in partnership with University of Missouri Extension financial education specialist Shatomi Luster. There are six neighborhood VITA sites in the greater Kansas City area.

VITA is a nationwide IRS-sponsored program that provides free tax preparation assistance for low-income earners. In Missouri, trained volunteers have prepared more than 20,000 returns in the past six years since the Missouri Taxpayers Education Initiative was founded.

Elizabeth Tellez, a single mom who works as a dental assistant, plans to use her refund to buy a more reliable vehicle to get to work. This is the second year she has used the service. She said she saves the money she would have spent with a tax firm to buy spring clothes for her child.

“We work with a diverse group of people,” said team member Jessie Haus. “They are very thankful for it.”

Families making up to $50,000 qualify for the free service. The service does not include corporate returns, rental income, home businesses with an inventory or employees, depreciation, amortization, or capital gains or losses on investments.

You will need to bring these items to the VITA site to have your tax return prepared:

  • Photo ID.
  • Social Security cards for you, your spouse and dependents, or a Social Security number verification letter issued by the Social Security Administration.
  • Birth dates for you, your spouse and dependents.
  • W-2 forms and any other wage and earning statements.
  • Interest and dividend statements (1099 forms).
  • A copy of last year’s federal and state returns, if available.
  • For direct deposit of refund, proof of bank routing numbers and account numbers, such as a voided personal check.
  • Total paid to day-care providers and the providers’ tax identification number (Social Security number or the business employer identification number), if appropriate.

To file electronically on a married-filing-jointly tax return, both spouses must be present to sign the required forms.

Sites are available across the state. To find a site near you, call 800-906-9887 or go to

For more information about the Missouri Taxpayer Education Initiative, go to

About AmeriCorps NCCC

The AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps is a full-time, team-based residential program for men and women ages 18-24. Members are assigned to five campuses across the United States and then travel to meet the needs of communities.

Drawn upon the successful model of the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s and the U.S. military, AmeriCorps NCCC is built on the belief that civic responsibility is an inherent duty of all citizens and that national service programs work effectively with local communities to address pressing needs.

Sponsoring organizations request the assistance of AmeriCorps NCCC teams by submitting a project application to the regional campus that covers that state.

For 10 months of service, members receive a living allowance of approximately $4,000, housing, uniforms, meals, and limited medical benefits, and receive up to $400 per month for child care if eligible. They are eligible for additional educational benefits upon completion of the program.

For more information, go to