For the third year, Trinfo.Café will host a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) clinic, but this year clients will have a contactless service with drive-up and drop-off assistance available. Trinfo.Café, which is located at 1300 Broad Street, on the campus of Trinity College in Hartford, altered how it aids in tax preparation services due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The service, which prepares both federal and state income tax returns for Hartford residents at no cost, will launch on Thursday, February 11, and IRS filing services will be available Friday, February 12.
The VITA clinic will offer new contactless procedures for dropping off tax documents and conducting client sessions by phone. Clients can schedule an appointment through www.211ct.org or by calling 2-1-1. Upon arrival, clients will confirm that they have the necessary documentation to file their taxes and then drop off the paperwork. A VITA volunteer tax preparer will then prepare the federal and state tax forms and file the taxes within seven days of drop-off. Generally, VITA serves those who make less than $57,000 a year, persons with disabilities, and taxpayers who speak limited English.
“We worked really hard to provide continuity of VITA services at Trinfo.Café,” said Serena Laws, senior lecturer in political science at Trinity and the IRS-trained Trinfo VITA clinic site coordinator. “This year is a hybrid model of in-person and virtual services. We want to provide tax services as safely as we can.”
Each year, Laws’ students in her “Tax Policy and Inequality in Hartford” course gain hands-on experience through a training program to become certified VITA volunteers; they then volunteer at Trinfo.Café with Laws overseeing the work being done. This semester there are 18 students registered for her course. They will handle basic tax preparation and get a greater sense of tax policy issues and social inequality. A weekly seminar allows for students to learn practical training but also contextualize what they do in the clinic through academic reading and assignments.
In early 2020, the VITA clinic processed 199 returns for a total of $448,859 in refunds, despite ending the clinic’s services in mid-March due to the pandemic. The year prior, during its pilot phase, 161 returns were completed for a total of $224,217 in refunds. Laws hopes that as the clinic and her students continue to build Trinfo’s reputation as a place to get quality tax preparation free of charge, more clients will spread the word about the services offered.
In addition to free tax preparation services, a free tax return printing service will be available at the Trinfo VITA site. This service will allow clients who had their taxes prepared at one of the VITA clinics in the Hartford region to print their returns at Trinfo-a needed service that is important to many in the community, said Laws. She said the service helps many of the neighborhood clients avoid challenges of finding a place to print and potentially exposing themselves to COVID-19 by going into a store location.
The VITA clinic hours will be 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays through April 15. For more information about VITA in Connecticut, go to www.unitedwayinc.org/myrefund/. Contactless services will also be available to walk-ups and those who take public transportation.