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Goodwill in Menasha offering free tax prep with precautions in place

Published: Feb. 11, 2021 at 5:03 PM CST
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MENASHA, Wis. (WBAY) - Free tax preparation sites may be harder to come by this year, but one area program found some alternative ways to provide the service.

Goodwill NCW in Menasha is home to a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance or VITA site. The IRS-sponsored program provides free tax preparation to people with low to moderate income (generally, household income of $66,000 or less), disabilities, or limited English.

But this time around, procedures have changed.

“This year is very different. Typically we operate with walk-ins, we had a lot of volunteers on-site,” said Jackie Zolp, VITA Site Coordinator.

But Zolp says this year they’re cutting down on capacity in a couple of ways.

Right now about half of their tax preparers are working from home. Starting Friday, Feb. 12, people will be able to work with them completely virtually through the GetYourRefund program, “Which provides us with a system to securely scan peoples documents and communicate with them securely with email and text,” said Zolp.

They also also have a valet style of in-person service, which started a couple weeks ago.

People can schedule a 20-minute appointment to drop off all their necessary documents and have a quick conversation with a volunteer preparer. In 5 to 7 days, they come back to pick up their finished return.

“It’s been very busy, very hectic as we learn a new system of doing it virtually and minimizing contact with people,” said Jim Reid.

Reid has been a VITA volunteer for 17 years. He believes their busy-ness will continue since they’re one of the few free tax programs in the area up and running.

“There are several other free tax services, other VITA sites for example in Oshkosh, Green Bay -- neither one are open yet and may not open from what I hear, I don’t know for sure,” said Reid. “The AARP folks run several sites and they aren’t open yet. So our demand has been much higher than normal.”

“We’re scheduling up to possibly 3,400 appointments this year,” said Zolp. “We’re actually getting people calling from long distances away as well, and we’re referring those people to our 100 percent virtual option.”

Once people schedule an appointment they should plan to come in prepared. People will get access to a list of all the things they need to bring along with them in the email confirmation of their appointment.

“They need to bring all their W2s, 1099s, unemployment if they received unemployment last year which a lot of people unfortunately had to do,” said Reid. “The state does not send that document to you, so you need to download it from your unemployment account, and we have to have that to do your taxes.

Reid suggests those who were on employment last year to come mentally prepared as well.

“I think some people are going to be surprised because they either didn’t have taxes taken out of it or didn’t have very much taxes. Unlike stimulus, which is not taxed, unemployment is taxable,” said Reid. “It’s a surprise sometimes to the taxpayer that they’re not getting the refund they thought they were.”

All in all, with the new methods and higher demand, Zolp is happy with the way things have been running.

“I think taxpayers are very happy to have the service available and we’re just happy we could provide it and offer these alternatives for people that can’t make it in here, as well as to just limit contact as much as possible,” said Zolp. “So I think it’s going very well, and I think people are just very thankful we have this service open.”

To schedule a valet in-person or virtual VITA appointment, CLICK HERE. The virtual option will not be available until Friday Feb. 12.

To find what other free tax prep sites may be near you, CLICK HERE.

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