The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Business

March 16, 2010

<img src=" http://www.joplinglobeonline.com/images/zope/tuesday.gif" border=0> Wally Kennedy: Tax asistance offered at Northpark Mall

It’s that time of year when the tax man cometh.

But there is help, and it is free to those who most need it. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance workers inside the main entrance to Northpark Mall are working harder than ever to make sure tax time is not a taxing experience.

You can’t miss the VITA office. Besides the food court, it’s about the only place in the mall where people are waiting in line.

Regarding the handful of people waiting outside the office last week, Darlene Dean, a VITA coordinator, said: “That’s nothing. On some days, we have people sitting on the floor and leaning against that wall over there. It helped when mall security brought us some extra chairs.”

VITA provides free tax assistance to people with low to moderate incomes. A person who makes more than $50,000 a year makes too much to qualify for the program. VITA also handles property-tax credits for the elderly and disabled.

Dean said VITA has 25 to 30 volunteers who are IRS-trained. The mall offers the office to the Economic Security Corp., sponsor of VITA, at no cost.

“We thank the mall for that,” Dean said.

The workers will do about 2,500 tax returns between Jan. 25, the starting date, and April 15, the day tax returns need to be postmarked or filed electronically.

There is a downside: If you are audited by the IRS, you are on your own.

The service requires a picture identification and a Social Security card. A normal return can take 30 minutes to prepare, excluding wait time.

The office is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, except Wednesdays. On Thursdays, the office is open until 7 p.m. No appointment is necessary.

Taxpayers are advised to provide W-2 forms, 1099 forms from Social Security and pensions, and any other income and deduction documents.

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