By Jan Sommerfeld
Preparing taxes is not only fun for Jan Immekus, it’s a family tradition.
“I enjoy doing taxes,” she said. “When I was about 16 or 17, my dad taught me and my brother how to do it on paper. We were taught that it’s your civic duty to file taxes. It was part of life.”
Through the years, Immekus just naturally started doing her own taxes. She also said she taught her children how to file their taxes and her daughters passed the skill on to their kids.
“To me it is fun,” she said. “It’s a challenge at times, depending on the circumstances. When you file the short form as a young working person, it’s not as complicated as when you get older and have kids. Then there are different stages in life, like when you buy a house.”
Today, she is among three members of the Retired & Senior Volunteer 55+ Program who volunteer for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program in Menasha. In 2020, they served 370 hours offering free tax assistance, preparation and electronic filing services to people with low- to moderate-household incomes ($66,000 or less) and people with disabilities.
She and her husband, Mike, vacation in Florida during the winter. When they get back in early March, she volunteers two or three times a week for 4-hour shifts as a tax preparer and specializes in health savings accounts. She said most clients are eligible for the earned income credit, child tax credit and homestead. After clients are screened to make sure they have all the necessary paperwork, Immekus enters their information into a software program. From there, it is reviewed by another volunteer. She appreciates the oversight that is built into VITA.
“It’s a very well-run program and much needed in the community,” she said. “Just to be able to help people who otherwise wouldn’t have the means to get their taxes done. They may be behind on their electric bill or rent, so the refund they get helps to get them out of poverty.”
This year, due to the pandemic, VITA will not offer walk-in options during the tax season. The program will be following CDC recommended COVID-19 protocols for on-site appointments.
The program’s web site states: “To serve more members of our community and ensure the safety of all taxpayers and volunteers, VITA is excited to announce a partnership with Get Your Refund for the 2021 tax season to provide 100% virtual tax prep services. It’s the same service you’ve always received from us – except no in-person contact.”
In addition to the Get Your Refund 100% virtual option, they also will offer in-person Valet VITA assistance by appointment only at Goodwill’s Menasha store and training center as well as access to free Do-It-Yourself (DIY) self-preparation.