The Co-operative Ministry has locations across the Midlands where volunteers prepare taxes for South Carolinians free of charge through a scheme funded by the IRS.

COLUMBIA, SC — Tax season is in full swing and to ease the burden on working families, a Midlands nonprofit is offering free tax preparation services.

Voluntary Income Tax Assistance, known as ‘VITA’, is an IRS program that the Co-operative Ministry offers in the Midlands.

“It’s a program for low-income taxpayers to get free tax assistance so they don’t go to a pop-up neighborhood and pay hundreds of dollars to prepare their taxes,” Ed Palekas, director of development programs sustainable for The Cooperative Ministry mentioned. He said almost all of their 24 locations in the Midlands accept walk-in tax aid. To find a VITA location near you, click here.

Taxpayers should bring required tax documents such as W-2 and 1099, photo ID, and Social Security cards for themselves and dependents. If a taxpayer is married, he must come with his spouse. The Cooperative Ministry has a complete list of required documents online.

According to the IRS, VITA is available to people who typically earn $58,000 a year or less, people with disabilities, and taxpayers who speak limited English.

When taxpayers enter a co-op ministry site, they sit down to answer some questions, and then the rest are processed and dropped off by certified volunteers for free.

“It’s very rewarding,” Palekas said. “You get the ‘thank you’, you get the feeling of relief that comes from the taxpayer, that ‘okay, it’s done, I don’t have to worry about that’. So that’s a good feeling.

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Palekas added that they helped over 10,000 people in the Midlands last year through the IRS-funded scheme. If you would like to volunteer, The Cooperative Ministry will train and certify you, no experience necessary. “We are still looking for help,” Palekas said.

According to the South Carolina Department of Revenue, other free tax services include myfreetaxes.com, which is a service provided by United Way and H&R Block.

Additionally, the AARP Foundation offers free tax assistance to seniors, even if you are not a member.

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