Around this time every year, we start talking about tax season and our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. We reiterate that VITA provides FREE income tax return preparations with electronic filing to individuals and families with low- to moderate- income, with disabilities, the elderly, and individuals with limited English-speaking ability who can’t afford to have their tax returns filed professionally each year. And of course, we talk about how you can get involved with VITA by becoming an IRS-certified volunteer.

Last year, VITA had 125 IRS-certified volunteers, of which, 70 were Buchholz High School students in the Academy of Finance program. Our volunteers worked for three months and prepared more than 2,000 tax returns in Alachua, Levy and Union counties. Through the program, community members were refunded almost $2 million and saved almost $600,000 in tax preparation fees.

But with this upcoming tax season, there are some changes according to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Here is what you can expect for the 2019 tax season:
  • Form 1040 will be shorter.
  • Personal exemptions are completely eliminated.
  • The standard deduction for taxpayers has increased. It was $6,500 for a single tax payer’s standard deduction, but now it has increased to $12,000.
  • The Child Tax Credit (CTC) doubled to $2,000 per qualifying child. There is even a new credit for other dependents who don’t qualify for the CTC with up to $500.
  • The maximum Earned Income Credit (EIC) amount is $6,431, for qualifying families. Last year, the amount was $6,318.

If you qualify for free tax preparation, keep us in mind to save money on having your taxes professionally prepared. Appointments will be available through our free and confidential 2-1-1 helpline beginning in mid- to late-January and running throughout tax season. If you are interested in helping people in our community save money, please consider becoming a VITA volunteer. Training to become IRS certified will be held on January 12 and 13 at the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law. No prior experience is required. For more information, please contact Marilyn Taylor at