CRESTVIEW — The time to begin filing tax returns is just around the corner.


CRESTVIEW — The time to begin filing tax returns is just around the corner.



To help low- to moderate-income households, the Crestview JobsPlus will host free income tax preparation, by appointment, starting Jan. 30.



The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, or VITA, serves households annually earning $51,000 or less.



"The idea is that if someone can come to a free site and get their taxes done, than that is money that they saved," Elaine Courtney, a University of Florida Okaloosa County Extension Office agent, said. "It will be a service to those that need it in the community." 



The VITA program has been available to service members living on Okaloosa military bases, but this is the first time all the county’s residents may participate.



"There were two (counties) in Florida that didn't have VITA (last year), and we were one of them," Courtney said. The other county was Gadsden.



Crestview’s VITA program currently has seven IRS-trained and certified volunteers to help qualified households prepare their tax returns.



However, more volunteers are needed.



"The more volunteers we have, the more hours we will be able to staff," Courtney said.



Time is of the essence, organizers said.



"People can volunteer on different levels from greeters to tax preparers," Rita Smith, the career agency’s manager, said. "We just ask that they contact us as soon as possible so we can get them into training."



 Holly McCarroll, an IRS tax consultant, said VITA training primarily is web-based. Call Courtney at 689-5850 or email ecourtne@ufl.edu to apply for training.



"Depending on their comfort level, (the training period) can be anywhere from a couple of days to a week or so," she said.



The agency is a fitting site, McCarroll said.



“It’s the perfect location for the VITA program because our audience is the same people that they serve," she said. Many residents use the agency’s online workshops and attend its workshops to find employment.



In addition to volunteers, VITA coordinators also seek donations.



"We are going to need paper to print returns," Courtney said. The program also could use more ink cartridges. 



Need tax assistance?



Contact the JobsPlusin Crestview, 689-7823, beginning Jan. 30. JobsPlus is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.



Want to volunteer?



Call Elaine Courtney, a University of Florida Okaloosa County Extension Office agent, at 689-5850. Email her at ecourtne@ufl.edu.



Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Matthew Brown at 850-682-6524 or matthewb@crestviewbulletin.com. Follow him on Twitter @cnbMatthew.