Volunteers will be in place by 8 a.m. Saturday, two hours before the VITA Clinic at McHenry County College is scheduled to open.
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Clinic is in its sixth year serving low and middle-income individuals and families. A team of about 20 people have worked Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings since Jan. 19 to help community members file their taxes for free, and they're expecting a rush on Saturday -- the last day the clinic will be open before taxes are due April 15.
This year Ann Esarco, VITA coordinator and MCC accounting instructor, expects to serve 600 people -- up from about 450 in 2012. Part of the reason for the increased demand is that the income cap is higher, at $51,000 for individuals and families.
"There are a lot of people with income less than $51,000," Esarco said. "Especially in the last few years."
Esarco said many people are coming in with lower incomes than in years past because of financial troubles tied to the economic climate. The clinic offers one of the only places in the region for free tax preparation.
Several members of the volunteer team are MCC accounting students, others are community members with accounting experience. All must go through training from the clinic or the IRS.
Besides income requirements for taxpayers, people must show up to the clinic with a social security card and photo ID. Wait time varies significantly based on the number of volunteers and the difficulty of the tax return.
Mary Takayama, one of the site managers at the clinic, said many people have come in to file returns dating back to 2009 -- those cases obviously take longer.
The number of volunteers is down slightly from last year, meaning everyone is putting in a lot more hours to serve so many extra people. But Takayama said it's worth the effort.
"The best thing for me is when you tell them their return amount," Takayama said. "And knowing that they didn't have to pay $150 to hear that."
The intake room at the clinic was to be open from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday in Room A102 at McHenry Community College, 8900 Route 14, Crystal Lake. Volunteers will open the doors at 8 a.m. Saturday and are scheduled to be on hand until 1 p.m. For details call (847) 260-VITA.