UPDATED as of Tuesday March 29, 2022:
All operations still Fully Remote with a backlog of returning clients.
Unable to serve any new clients at this time. We expect to expand operations in 2023.
We apologize but we are unable to respond to the huge volume of inquiries by phone at this time. The best way to reach us is our UnionVITA@gmail.com address.
At this time, Union College VITA site is the ONLY operating VITA site in Schenectady County, according to the IRS database.
There used to be six VITA/TCE sites in Schenectady County. All the other sites in Schenectady County have unfortunately closed. As a result, we are overwhelmed and swamped with demand. Our storefront site at the Kenney Community is tiny and with Omicron rates still high and many of our long time clients medically vulnerable and/or elderly, it would be unsafe to operate in a face to face modality.
The Union VITA operations mode currently is virtual/remote only. As infection rates hopefully continue to decline and the weather improves, we hope to add a Valet VITA option and possibly other forms of face-to-face in person VITA in suitable, large well-ventilated spaces at nearby community nonprofits. We will update this page when that happens.
In addition, we are still testing out our 2022 filing season software on taxpayers we have served in previous years. Normally we close in early/mid March. We are planning to stay open later than usual this year to accommodate the overwhelming demand and take more new clients this year.
We have a strong goal of educating taxpayers to help them learn to take pride and ownership in the accuracy of the returns we assist them in preparing. We painstakingly confirm and explain every line on our clients' returns before asking our clients to sign electronically to authorize efiling their returns. We don't want our clients to authorize us to efile their returns before all their questions have been answered.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: Obviously Union College VITA can't prepare the returns of every qualifying taxpayer in Schenectady County. What are other free options for low and moderate income taxpayers in this area? Do any of them offer traditional in-person VITA?
There are some other VITA sites in Albany, Rensselaer, and Saratoga Counties, unfortunately again, fewer than there used to be. You can check the IRS database to find other VITA sites in adjacent counties. At this time, the closest site listed is 14 miles away from ours. Most of the other sites in this area offer traditional face-to-face traditional VITA.
You can also call the United Way CA$H Coalition, of which the Union College VITA site is a member, at their 2-1-1 phone number to make an appointment through them. The CA$H Coalition offered Valet VITA options last year and is working on offering them again later this filing season.
NYS Department of Tax & Finance also offers a great remote virtual webinar program where they will coach taxpayers through do-it-yourself prep of federal and NY tax returns using free Facilitated Self Assistance software.
Q: What are Union's remote options at this time? Do you have plans to offer more options later in the season?
Union College VITA currently offers two remote options
Option 1) Our remote Facilitated Self Assistance (FSA) option. This model is available for taxpayers in the Capital District with income under $73,000, both returning AND new. Under this model, you would email us to request a link to a secure website where you would be preparing your own return in FREE consumer-friendly do-it-yourself software. It is a consumer version of the same professional software our volunteers use. If you have questions as you are working on your return, you can email us for answers to your questions as you work on your returns. If there is anything you are unsure about, we urge you to talk it through with us before you efile. This can be a great opportunity to take ownership and pride in preparing your own tax return.
Option 2) Union's remote Virtual VITA site is available for taxpayers in the Capital District with incomes under $58,000. At this time, we can only serve our returning clients in this option. Each week in March we will revisit the question of whether we can take in new clients and update this page. In this program, you would email us to request that send you a secure link to a website where you can upload photos of your tax documents. We would then conduct to "soup to nuts" full service preparation of your taxes, communicating with you via phone, text, email, and/or Zoom, depending on your preferences as your return works through our remote process. The secure platform we use to host your tax documents was created by our partners at Code for America.
Option 1 is best for those with relatively simple tax circumstances, as well as comfort with using a computer with remote assistance.
Option 2 is best for those with more complicated returns, especially households with children potentially eligible for refundable credits. You can use either a smart phone or a tablet or laptop to send us photos of your tax info.
Unfortunately, both of the above options require some degree of comfort with technology, as well as access to a computer or tablet or smartphone.
Remote VITA is great in some ways (it removes barriers of travel, parking, weather, childcare and also allows us more flexible scheduling) but sometimes frustrating in others. The software we use is great when it works smoothly (which is MOST of the time) but can occasionally be frustrating to navigate.
So we are hoping and planning to offer in-person versions of both of the above options later during this filing season as the weather improves and infection rates continue to decline. Possibilities we are working on with the United Way CA$H Coalition include helping taxpayers at in-person FSA or in-person "Valet VITA"events hosted at nonprofits in Schenectady with large, well-ventilated spaces and good secure wifi.
What exactly is Valet VITA?
Valet VITA is a hybrid remote option. You would travel to a site hosted by a local nonprofit where you would do a face-to-face intake interview and sign a consent that gives us permission to scan your tax documents into our system. Then you would leave and we would work on your tax return, contacting you by phone or Zoom to answer your questions. A week or so later you would return to the same site to review the tax return we have prepared for you. After all your questions have been answered and we confirm all the information on the return with you, you would sign an authorization to efile and then we would efile your return.
How does in-person FSA (sometimes called FSA) work?
FSA is a do-it-yourself model. In-person FSA means you would be working in a community space at a local nonprofit with IRS certified VITA volunteers circulating around the room to answer questions as needed in person. You could either bring your own laptop OR use a computer provided by the host site.
Who is staffing Union College VITA this year?
As always, Union VITA is staffed by IRS certified VITA volunteers. In the past, Union College VITA volunteers were concurrently enrolled in Union's Economics 391, Income Tax Policy & Practice class. This year, the class is not being offered, but alumni of prior year Eco 391 classes have stepped up to assist. The CA$H Coalition has also recruited community volunteers to help us with many years of experience at other sites that are now closed.