VITA program offers free tax help

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If you’re looking for tax advice but don’t want to blow your refund to pay for it, Journey House will be offering free tax assistance beginning in February.

For the first time, Journey House has become a VITA (volunteer income tax assistance) site for eligible residents.

Volunteers will be able to assist neighbors with tax help and provide them with resources that include workshops and financial counselors, said Julie Tenpas, an employment specialist at Journey House.

The volunteers, who include retired accountants and trained students, will assist community members with tax filing and offer financial literacy workshops, financial counseling and credit repair.

“Our objective is to help people to be in control of their money,” said Marlene Scholz, a volunteer financial coach for Journey House who retired after many years in banking.

Income tax assistance is available for low-income individuals and families. “Our goal is to help at least 50 people at Journey House,” Tenpas said. “But I think we will help at least 100.”

Journey House is only one of Milwaukee’s VITA sites. Volunteer tax assistance is also available at some community centers, libraries, churches, shopping malls and retirement homes. Schools such as Marquette University Law School and Milwaukee Area Technical College offer assistance as well.

“We’re here to help improve the lives of people in Milwaukee,” Scholz said. “We want nothing else but to help the community prosper and benefit from our help.”

Most VITA sites are open from Feb. 1 to April 15. To find a VITA location in your area, call the Wisconsin Department of Revenue at 1-800-829-1040. Some sites require appointments while others are first-come, first-served.

Appointments at the Journey House site can be made in February and March.

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