Tzu Chi’s VITA Program Services Taxpayers for the 2024 Tax Season

Southern  |  March 1, 2024
The volunteers responsible for the first stop of tax filing first help people check their personal information and tax filing-related documents.
Volunteers in charge of the first step of tax return preparation helped people check their personal information and documents related to tax return filing. Photo/Charlie Sun

Written by Cuifang Chen, Charlie Sun
Edited by Andrew Larracuente
Translated by Ariel Chan

Tzu Chi Atlanta’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program provides services by IRS-certified volunteers to low- and middle-income people in the community and people who are unable to file their tax returns. The service occurs at Tzu Chi Atlanta (3120 Medlock Bridge Rd, Building E, Peachtree Corners, GA 30071). This year, service dates are every Saturday from February 3 to April 13, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The free tax return preparation flyers are available in English, Chinese, and Spanish. Free tax return preparation appointments are available for those who need them.

The Most Professional Tax Return Preparation Service

February 17 was the third Saturday in 2024 that Tzu Chi provided free tax return preparation services. Although the weather was cold and cloudy, the Tzu Chi Atlanta office was bustling with activity. The tax return preparation service started at 9:30 a.m. Volunteers in charge of the morning shift arrived at the office before 9 a.m. to get ready in advance. Thanks to the bakeries donated by the Family Bakery, volunteers who could not make it to breakfast were able to serve the people with full energy.

Tzu Chi’s free tax return preparation service was very popular. For each of the five-time slots throughout the day, six groups of families made reservations online, and two walk-in slots were reserved for people who did not have reservations. People who made reservations for 9:30 a.m. showed up early around 9:00 a.m. The volunteers in charge of registration greeted them warmly. They patiently guided people to fill out the forms, and then went into the classroom that served as a tax preparation room to fill out the tax forms. After completing the form, they waited outside the classroom. Finally, they enter the Quality Review classroom to have their tax returns filed.

The free tax return preparation service helps eligible people in the community, and it also conveys the idea that we are all welcome to serve the community together. Tzu Chi’s free tax return preparation service team will grow even bigger.

Volunteers in charge of the final quality review process printed out the tax forms and handed them over to the people after receiving confirmation, and then exchanging farewell with them, “See you next year!” Usually, it takes one to one and a half hours for a family to complete all the procedures for filing their tax returns. However, there are families with many taxable items in their tax returns, and there are even cases where additional corrections are needed. So the volunteers are always willing to take the trouble to explain the situation patiently and provide the most professional tax return services.

Moved Tax Filing People Become Volunteers

A total of 36 people were served on the day. At 9:30 p.m. alone, 11 people had already been helped with their tax returns. Suyun Lin, the volunteer in charge of Tzu Chi’s tax return preparation service, arranged for sufficient human resources, and the volunteers cooperated well with each other, taking turns to eat during the lunch hour to ensure uninterrupted service to the people who came for the tax preparation service. In addition, veteran volunteer Meiqing Guan was present to help receive the people coming in for tax preparation and show people who were interested in touring the Tzu Chi Atlanta Branch office around to further understand Tzu Chi’s humanity and philosophy.

It is worth mentioning that the volunteers of Tzu Chi’s free tax return preparation service are not only retired professionals but also working finance- or tax-related personnel. They gave up their rest time after work and worked overtime to provide professional tax return preparation services to eligible families. Their enthusiasm to serve the community also touched the people who came for the tax preparation service. Some people signed up on the spot to become tax preparation service volunteers, while others volunteered to stay behind to serve as translators for other foreign languages.

Volunteers receive people in the lobby.
Volunteers received people in the lobby. Photo/Cuifang Chen
The parking lot at the entrance of Tzu Chi Atlanta Branch’s “Free Tax Preparation Service (VITA)” was filled with people’s cars.
The parking lot at the entrance of Tzu Chi Atlanta Branch's free tax return preparation service (VITA) was fully parked with people's cars. Photo/Charlie Sun

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