The Greater Longview United Way is continuing its free income tax preparation program this year and adjusting to allow for COVID-19 precautions.

Executive Director Donna Sharp said the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program facilitated by the her agency will offer free tax help to households earning $60,000 or less. The volunteers preparing tax returns and filing them are IRS-certified.

“In the past, we normally have the income tax prep at Broughton (Recreation Center),” Sharp said. “We knew long ago they would be going through renovations, so we knew we couldn’t do it there this season.”

This year, the program will be held at Longview Child Development Center and will limit contact between volunteers and participants because of the pandemic. The program will be offered through April 15.

Options this year are in-person, drop-off or free e-file.

In-person tax preparation is held by appointment only Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday each week at Longview Child Development Center, 1230 S. High St. Walk-ins will not be accepted, Sharp said. Appointments can be made on the Longview United Way website.

“Right now, it’s a little slow,” Sharp said. “Don’t make an appointment until you have all tax documents in hand.”

In the past, taxpayers would wait in the building for their returns to be prepared. This year, they will be asked to wait in their vehicles.

“If you don’t want to wait, choose drop off,” Sharp said. “Don’t pay to get your taxes done if we can do them for free.”

Required documents and forms are listed on the Longview United Way website under the “free tax preparation” tab. A copy of a photo ID and Social Security Card is required, not the originals.

For drop-off, participants can leave required documents in the secure, locked drop box outside the front door of the United Way, 310 S. Fredonia St., by April 10.

“We’ll call when they’re prepared,” Sharp said. “It takes a day or two, and they will not be done while the taxpayer is waiting at the site.”

In 2020 for the 2019 tax return, the program helped residents claim more than $1 million in tax refunds. This is the 13th year that the Greater Longview United Way has provided the free tax preparation.

For information, visit www.longviewunitedway.org/vita or call (903) 236-9211. Taxpayers can prepare their own taxes for free at www.myfreetaxes.com.

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Courtney Stern is a public safety reporter covering a wide range of topics. She grew up in Baltimore and later earned a journalism degree from the University of Miami. Stern moved to East Texas from Iowa with her husband and two dogs, Pebbles and Bam Bam.