tampabay.com

Free help with taxes pays off

By JON WILSON
Published March 13, 2007


It has been a winning tax season for some residents, and perhaps particularly for many in Midtown.

Emphasizing earned income tax credits, four staff members at the Sanderlin Family Center have prepared more than 450 returns resulting in roughly a half-million dollars returned, officials said.

"It's only the first part of March," marveled Cherin Stover, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance project coordinator for the Wealth Building Coalition.

The free VITA is available at seven Pinellas County sites, four of them in St. Petersburg.

Two new VITA sites have opened: at Wachovia Gulfport Financial Center, 2001 49th St. S, and at the Pinellas County Urban League, 13420 Adams Circle, Largo. Robert Baldree, a certified public accountant who lives near Lake Seminole, jump-started the Urban League site, which is in the Ridgecrest neighborhood near Ulmerton Road.

Baldree, despite his heavy day-job responsibilities this time of year, at first volunteered three days a week. He has done most of 35 returns, resulting in about $57,000 coming back to Ridgecrest residents, Stover said.

She said the former firefighter's work assures that the Urban League site will be a VITA center again next year. "It's been a privilege to watch as (Baldree) helped lay such a good foundation for the site," she said. She expects community chat will bring more people in 2008.

"It's in a good location to help the right people," Baldree said, noting that many of those who come to VITA often can't afford the fees charged by commercial tax return preparers.

Meanwhile, the new Wachovia site wasn't able to open until Feb. 10. But Stetson College of Law students, a poverty attorney and a retired CPA have prepared almost 60 returns resulting in $35,000 worth of earned credit money, Stover said.

If you go

VITA Centers

Asian Neighborhood Family Center, 1801 62nd Ave. N: Thursday, 5:30-8:30 p.m.; Saturday: 9 a.m.-1 p.m. (727) 520-9820.

Enoch Davis Center, 1111 18th Ave. S: Monday, Wednesday, Friday: 1-4 p.m. (727) 893-7803.

High Point YMCA, 5345 Laurel Place, Clearwater: Thursday, 5:30-8 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. (727) 507-9622.

Sanderlin Family Center, 2335 22nd Ave. S: Monday, 4-6 p.m.; Tuesday, Thursday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. (727) 321-9444.

Pinellas County Urban League, 13420 Adams Circle: Monday, Wednesday, 5:30 p.m.-9 p.m. (727) 581-7661.

Union Academy, 401 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Tarpon Springs Tuesday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; Wednesday, 3 p.m.-6 p.m.; Thursday, 3 p.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. (727) 934-5881.

Wachovia Gulfport Financial Center, 2001 49th St. S: Monday, Wednesday, 5:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. (727) 892-7425.