WALLINGFORD — The number of people who used a free tax preparation service at the local library increased by 57 percent over last year.
Monday was the deadline for taxpayers to file their state and federal income tax returns.
Maria Harlow, United Way of Meriden and Wallingford executive director, said Monday that the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program in Wallingford and Meriden had surpassed all of its goals.
VITA is available to taxpayers with a household income of less than $54,000, persons with disabilities and those who speak limited English. The IRS trains and certifies VITA volunteers to help with basic tax return preparation, including the option to file electronically and receive tax returns by direct deposit.
The Human Resources Agency of New Britain runs the program locally, with assistance from the United Way, which helps find volunteer tax preparers and coordinates IRS training.
Harlow said that as of Saturday, VITA volunteers at the Wallingford Public Library had processed 166 returns, up 57 percent from last year.
It was the second year the library hosted the program.
Harlow said that program growth came from word of mouth.
“It’s just more people know about the program, so they take advantage of it,” she said. “They bring their friends and relatives.”
The flexible hours “helps a lot,” she added, “and the fact that it’s free to those who qualify.”
Harlow said the amount that local tax filers received in refunds through VITA was not available yet, but estimates it’s a little more than $2 million.
Julie Rio, adult programming and community services librarian for the Wallingford Public Library, said Monday that the program growth “goes to show it’s a service that’s needed.”
”The library enjoys providing a service to people, a service people need,” Rio said.
She added that volunteers accommodated some last-minute filers Saturday.
”They are volunteers, giving their own time, all doing it with a smile on their face,” she said.
The Spanish Community of Wallingford also hosted VITA for the second time this year, where volunteers competed 43 returns, a 10 percent increase from last year.
SCOW also offered Spanish language interpreters, Harlow said.
Volunteers at the Meriden Public Library, which has hosted the program for the last 20 years, completed 915 returns, up almost 8 percent, for a total of $1,525,000 in refunds.
VITA program sites closed mostly over the weekend, but Southington Community Services volunteers were available Monday.
VITA processes and filed returns for its clients electronically. On Monday, very few people were filing their tax returns the old-fashioned way, by mail, at the Main Street post office.
In past years, tax day evoked images of long lines at the post office as filers sought to meet the April 15 deadline.
Around noon on Monday, people visiting the post office were picking up certified letters, applying for passports and checking post office boxes.
Only one person was there to mail a tax return.
Joseph Goral, a retired Wallingford resident, dropped off his and his wife’s tax returns.
He said he worked two jobs for 23 years, and that the federal tax restructuring has helped him. Last year, he paid almost $6,000, and this year he’s down to $2,600.
“Usually I send (it) earlier, but this time, we delayed a little bit,” he said. “But the last day is good always, good because we always pay … I don’t mind contributing a little bit, but not too much.”