VITA Provides a Helping Hand

Debbie looks forward to tax season every year.

Sound a little farfetched? Not when you know Debbie’s story.

As a retired grandmother on a budget, Debbie is also raising her granddaughter Sireinique. Debbie started looking after her granddaughter 12 years ago when her daughter was struggling as a young parent. “[My daughter] moved out on her own and had hard times when she became pregnant with my granddaughter. I wanted to help her finish school and get her life together, that’s how I began to raise and care for Sireinique. I’m really not much different from any other grandparent who has had to suddenly take care of a grandchild because of their circumstances. Just doing my best.”

Debbie takes great pride in seeing Sireinique excel in school and at her part time job. She knows that while raising a grandchild isn’t always easy, the pride she takes in watching Sireinique choose her path to either military service or applying to college makes up for every difficult moment along the way.

Doing her best includes looking for ways to stretch the family budget. In addition to working as a school crossing guard, Debbie also gets her taxes prepared and filed for free with United Way Suncoast’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. In fact, she has used the program for the past six years. The free tax preparation program connects low-to-moderate income residents in the Suncoast Region with trained IRS-certified volunteers who not only prepare and file their taxes, but can help clients plan how they will use their returns.

“I feel safe and secure doing my taxes with United Way Suncoast. It’s less stressful and it’s good for old people like me,” she said with a chuckle. “I know I could do it with a program at home, but I’m never sure if I’m doing it right.” She prefers VITA to other services that charge a fee. “Some of them ask for up to $300, and that’s $300 that could go to food or school supplies for my granddaughter.”

By getting her taxes done through United Way Suncoast’s VITA program, Debbie saves on tax preparation fees and IRS-certified volunteers ensure she takes advantage of all her eligible credits including the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and gets the maximum refund for which she qualifies.

The money she saves from having her taxes done by going to United Way Suncoast and filing with the VITA program goes to what matters most to Debbie: her granddaughter’s future.