LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - While many people dread tax season, it's officially begun as of January 31, and some individuals are getting a jump start.
It could be because one place is offering free income tax assistance. And it's thanks to a $23,000 grant from the IRS and help from Entergy that United Way of SWLA is able to do this.
For those who qualify, they say it's a blessing to have this type of free service available to them.
"One of my friends told me about it and I came last year, it was so good, they're really nice and friendly, and they just helped me out a whole lot," said Cynthia Labbe.
Labbe has now used VITA, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program offered at United Way, for the past two years.
"It's so wonderful because it's so expensive these days, so to get something that you can get blessed with, it's a good thing," said Labbe.
From now through April 15, United Way of SWLA is offering free income tax assistance to those who qualify.
"We provide free income tax preparation services, federal and state, for low to moderate income individuals and families," said VITA Program Coordinator, Monette Kilburn.
Anyone whose 2013 income was $58,000 or less should call 2-1-1 or stop by. Their office at United Way is one of nine locations providing income tax assistance.
And the program itself is run by volunteers.
Dawn Frederick is one of many who have received training and become certified to prepare taxes.
"Depending on what kind of forms they have, it depends on how long it takes. If it's something simple, about half an hour, few more forms, probably about an hour," said Frederick.
Officials say they prepared 1,200 returns last year, so don't wait too long, but if you do, they also have e-filing.
"We also have a link to myfreetaxes.com so anyone who meets the financial criteria can also go online and do it, it's self directed, it's free, you can do it from home," said Kilburn.
But those who came in Tuesday say they'll be back and are spreading the word.
"Oh yes, I did. I've told a lot of my friends about it, yes," said Labbe.
United Way officials say they plan to add a few more locations in like Cameron and Allen Parish to offer the services.
They're also still looking for volunteers to train as tax preparers.
For e-filing information: http://www.myfreetaxes.com/
Volunteer information: http://getconnected.unitedwayswla.org/volunteer/agency/need/?need_id=22623