Volunteer helps client with tax preparation. (United Way)

United Way of Santa Barbara County is kicking off the 2017 tax season with seven centers that offer free tax preparation now through April 15 to families and individuals who earned less than $62,000 in 2016.
United Way of Santa Barbara County’s United for Financial Empowerment Partnership will hold a kick-off celebration for its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 8, at United Way of Santa Barbara County, 320 East Gutierrez St., Santa Barbara.

Each VITA location is staffed by trained, experienced, IRS-certified volunteers who provide free income tax return preparation and E-Filing to help local residents receive their tax refunds that help improve financial stability.
“We have heard from hundreds of previous clients how important free tax preparation assistance is to help them claim their full tax refund and start building long-term assets to get on more solid financial ground,” said Steve Ortiz, United Way of Santa Barbara County president & CEO.

“Last year our amazing partners and volunteers were able to help secure $3.2 million in refunds for local residents,” Ortiz said.

“This year, we are also looking forward to a new partnership with UCSB to help students file for financial aid which ultimately leads to improved education and career opportunities,” he said.
In 2016, more than 150 volunteers through United Way of Santa Barbara County’s United for Financial Empowerment Partnership prepared approximately 3,100 returns.
Tax preparation services will be available at the following VITA sites through April 15:
United Way, 320 E. Gutierrez St., Santa Barbara. 1-5 p.m., Tuesdays and Wednesdays
Dons Net Cafe/Santa Barbara High School, 700 E. Anapamu St., Santa Barbara, 3-6 p.m., Wednesdays*
Goleta Valley Community Center, 5679 Hollister Ave., Goleta, 9 a.m.-noon, 1-3 p.m. Fridays
Franklin Neighborhood Center, 1136 Montecito St., Santa Barbara, 6-9 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays*
Police Activities League, 1235 Chapala St., Santa Barbara, 7-9 p.m. Mondays and Fridays, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays
Santa Ynez High School, 2975 E. Highway 246 Room E-1, Santa Ynez, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday Feb. 25, March 4 and March 11.

Franklin Neighborhood Center and Police Activities League will be closed Feb. 17, 20 and March 31.
Santa Barbara High School – Dons Net Café will be closed Feb. 15, March 29 and April 5.
In conjunction with the UCSB Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships, the Police Activities League site will also host Financial Aid Workshops and assistance in filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The financial aid assistance will be available on Saturdays: Feb. 11-March 4 and March 25-April 15. The Financial Aid Workshops will be held 10-11 a.m., and assistance in filing the FAFSA will be available 11 a.m.-3 p.m.  
For more information and a comprehensive list of VITA sites and operating hours, visit http://www.unitedwaysb.org/vita.

— Angel Pacheco/Chris Davis for United Way.