By Lauren Callahan
LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - It's now April, which means just one thing -- it's almost tax time.
You've just got two more weeks, until April 17th, to file your federal income taxes.
And for the fifth year, the Lufkin Goodwill offices are hosting a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program -- and according to officials, those volunteers have already helped nearly 500 Lufkin residents file their tax returns for free.
"We are offering a VITA site, which stands for Volunteer Tax Assistance site, which we bring in volunteers from the community and we train them on to be IRS-certified tax preparers," said Tracy Shannon, the Family Financial Stability Program Manager at the Goodwill of Lufkin.
Those tax preparers go through several months of training, which allows them to offer free tax preparation to anyone in the community who earns less than $50,000 a year.
Program officials say the Lufkin VITA program, which is only one of four such programs in the United States, is just an extension of Goodwill's mission.
"Goodwill's mission is to empower people to be self-sufficient for independence, and we think it's really important that we do a lot of work helping people to find jobs," Shannon said. "And once they find jobs, well part of having a job is income tax. And if we can offer our assistance for free to file people's income tax, it helps them keep more of the money they've made."
And officials are proud that the VITA tax program is just as accurate as a program you'd pay to use.
"All of our returns are looked at least twice. Many three times. They go through reviews to make sure that they're done correctly and so you can be confident that it's done correctly and quickly and it's free," Shannon said.
You don't have to have an appointment to use the VITA service, but you do need to remember a picture ID, Social Security cards for you and your dependents, and all related tax forms -- your W-2's, 1099's, and anything else you might need to file.
To take part in the program, just go to the Lufkin Goodwill offices at 310 Hill street on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Thursdays from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. through Tuesday, April 17th. You can also go on Saturday, April 14th, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m..
You will also find volunteers at the Diboll library today and Monday April 9th from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.