Free tax assistance in Orange County helping sift through whirlwind 2020

VIDEO: Free tax assistance in Orange County helping sift through whirlwind 2020

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Since tax season opened last week, more people are seeking filling help in handling all those financial twists faced in the pandemic.

Not everyone can afford an expert to make sure you’ve done it right, but a free service in Orange County is busier than ever.

For retired serviceman Manuel Valdes, getting his taxes finished and filed is a big relief.

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“I was trying to do it myself from home but it was a little confusing for me to do it,” he said.

The Orlando resident was one of a steady stream of Friday appointments at Goodwill’s Job Connection Center, where February and March are completely booked, and April is filling up fast.

They’re only doing Orange County, but “if there’s no one doing them in Osceola, they’re also coming from Osceola,” said Jesus Amaro with the Goodwill Job Connection Center.

IRS-certified volunteers make up the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or VITA, which is a partnership between Goodwill Industries of Central Florida and the Heart of Florida United Way.

The no-charge service runs through May 5 and is open to the elderly, disabled, those with language barriers or those making less than $66,000 a year.

From claiming stimulus checks to unemployment, questions are abound for taxpayers in a whirlwind year like 2020.

“They know that things have changed a little bit,” Amaro said. “They want someone who has the expertise to get it done for them.”

To find a service near you, dial 211 on a cell phone to get all the locations by ZIP code.