Human Services Programs of Carroll County Inc., is looking for volunteers to help expand its free tax preparation program in the new year.

Through the IRS sponsored Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or VITA program, HSP helps prepare the taxes of people earning below a certain threshold — $54,000 in 2017 — for free, helping them keep more of their tax return. In early 2018, the program prepared more than 1,000 returns and put more than $1.5 million in tax returns back in the hands of lower income people in Carroll, according to a news release.

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HSP has plans to prepare more tax returns in 2019, as many as 1,200, but the nonprofit needs more volunteers in order to do so.

“It can be difficult to find volunteer preparers, so if we get five people who are just super excited about preparing taxes, that’s awesome,” said Jennifer Graybill, director of opportunity programs at HSP. “We also could use help with our front desk. During tax season we do have a lot of administrative work.”

Anyone interested would need to be available from January through April, 2019, and be willing to take a free IRS training to prepare taxes, according to the release.

“The free training is both online and in person,” Graybill added. “I provide the training, so the first round would be Taxes 101, that’s about a three-hour training we have in early January that’s open to all new volunteers.”

There’s additional drop in training sessions on different topics and tax software closer to the start of the tax season, according to Graybill, and all new volunteers will shadow a veteran volunteers.

The minimum time commitment once the tax season begins is one three-hour session per week, Graybill said.

“If it’s less than three hours, they will not get through more than a couple of returns,” she said. “Once a week allows them to get into a groove, know what they are doing and feel comfortable at our site.”

Those who think they could be interested but are intimidated or unsure about committing to the tax preparation training could dip a toe in the water and make a big difference by volunteering on the administrative side of things, according to Graybill.

“Start off by volunteering on our administrative side — setting appointments, screening phone calls,” she said, “that’s a great way to ease your way in.”

Graybill said that volunteering for the VITA program can be a stimulating and rewarding experience that combines many different aspects of volunteer work into one position.

“When you prepare someone’s taxes, not only are you providing a free service so our working families keep more of their money, you are providing a financial education that so many people don’t have. You get to use all sorts of attributes in one position, and I think that makes it exciting for volunteers.”

For more information or to volunteer, contact HSP volunteer coordinator, Matt Thornton, at 410-386-6645 or mthornton@hspinc.org.

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