Getting Results Award winner helps thousands cash in

VITA tax assistance program offers free tax help

By Paul Giorgio - Producer

DeLAND, Fla. - Bonnie Holloway, visiting lecturer in accounting at Stetson University, is this week's News 6 Getting Results Award winner.

Holloway has been the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, or VITA, site coordinator at Stetson University for five years.

The IRS-sponsored program uses local volunteers to provide tax service free of charge. Households must generally make less than $55,000 a year to qualify. Holloway has helped the location reach $2 million in refunds since the program started.

"It's a wonderful service," Holloway said. "I enjoy helping the clients, making sure they get the best deal that we can get for them."

Holloway said she also enjoys watching her students, who volunteer to prepare the returns, grow and learn to work with people in real-world situations. 

"The students do all the work," Holloway said. "I just kind of hang around the edges and make sure everything goes OK."

Holloway and Assistant Site Coordinator Geoffrey Gose check every return before they are officially filed. 

"Bonnie Holloway is definitely getting results," Gose said. "She's helped bring in over $2 million to the community in tax refunds. It's not just the students she's helping out but the citizens of Volusia County as well."

As Holloway sat down to check a return, she used her 35 years of experience to explain the process to her client.

"These numbers right here are the most common reason returns get rejected," said Holloway, pointing to the computer screen. "Do you have any expenses to offset this income?"

The nationwide program is sponsored locally by The United Way. There are 276 VITA tax sites in Central Florida and 3.2 million people take advantage of the service nationwide.  

United Way of Volusia-Flagler Counties Program Coordinator Shelia Davis Jackson said the program is often overlooked.

"The public needs to be educated more on this service," she said in an email. "Due to funding, advertising is limited; therefore, we rely on word of mouth." 

That being said, the Stetson University location was unable to accept any more appointments with three days left to file. 

"Stetson values service," Holloway said when asked about the program's importance. "That's one of the things Stetson is known for and so this is just a form of doing that."  

   

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