United Way of Denton County volunteer John Hoose goes over income tax guidelines with Lorrie Bennett at North Branch Library on Saturday. The agency says its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program helped 1,606 families get back $2.1 million in tax refunds last year, while saving them an estimated $420,000 in filing fees.

This week, United Way of Denton County volunteer John Hoose spent 33 hours helping families file their tax returns through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.

Now in his sixth season, the retired engineer said volunteering for the program, which launched Monday, has become his favorite way to help Denton County. The program helps families who make less than $58,000 a year prepare, review and file their taxes free of charge.

“I’m fortunate because I’m retired and I can do this,” Hoose said. “There’s so many people in this community that need the help we can give. The significant refunds positively impact their lives.”

Last year, the program helped 1,606 families get back $2.1 million, while saving them an estimated $420,000 in filing fees, said Teddy Yan, director of financial initiatives at United Way.

Hoose said last year VITA helped about double the amount of people compared to when he first started volunteering with the program. He said after he completed the mandated training, he was nervous to help the first family even though he’s been filing his own taxes since he was 16.

“It was very easy flowing into it the first season. I volunteered one or two days a week and I really, really like it here,” he said. “You’re helping a lot of people who aren’t comfortable with numbers and don’t have time to sit down and learn how to prepare taxes themselves, so I’ve found it very fulfilling.”

Yang said a lot of the families who use the VITA program have had bad experiences in the past with companies overcharging them for the work. One woman they helped last year had paid $500 in 2018, which meant by using VITA she had $500 extra income, Yan said.

“The families we get refunds for are the ones who could use them the most,” he said. “Some use it for an emergency fund, some to pay off debts or fund car repairs so they have better transportation to get to work, and some use it for their kid’s education.”

The program will run through April 15 at sites in Denton, Aubrey, Corinth, Lake Dallas, Lewisville, Little Elm, Pilot Point and Sanger, and volunteer opportunities are still available.

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @jennafduncan.

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