CHIPLEY -- Free filing services will be available locally this tax season.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, a program of United Way of Northwest Florida, will be available Feb. 5 to April 16, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, at Florida Panhandle Technical College, 757 Hoyt St., in the cafeteria.

VITA is available to individuals who earned $66,000 or less last year.

Hollee Hansen, Senior Community Outreach Specialist at United Way, said the program expects to attracts students, teachers and "anyone within the community that hears about it."

"Anybody who wants to save their filing fees," she added, "which, the cheapest is usually about $200."

VITA served about 3,000 individuals in the region last year, saving them an estimated $600,000 in filing fees. The charity serves Washington, Holmes, Bay, Calhoun, Gulf and Jackson counties.

The all-volunteer VITA staff, which has two offices, one in Washington County at FPTC and the other at A.D. Harris Learning Village, 819 E. 11th St., in Bay County, is IRS-certified and trained.

As the possibility of a government shutdown looms ahead Feb. 8, Hansen said government officials have stated the tax season will continue uninterrupted. Unrelated to the shutdown, officials also stated anyone who files a child or earned income credit will have their refund checks held until Feb. 15.

"That's the IRS mandating that, it's not us," she added.

Onsite VITA services are by appointment only. To schedule a VITA appointment, call 850-638-1180 ext. 341. If you're filing a joint return, both taxpayers must be present at the appointment.

Bring the following to the appointment: photo ID, social security cards for you, your spouse and your dependents, wage documents, health insurance forms, and interest and dividend statements. Although direct deposit information is desirable because it saves taxpayers from having to pay check cashing fees, it is not required to receive refunds.

In addition to VITA onsite, individuals may file taxes for free online at the United Way website: unitedwaynwfl.org/vita. There is no income threshold to file online.

To file with VITA

What: Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)

When: Feb. 5 to April 16, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays

Where: Florida Panhandle Technical College, 757 Hoyt St., in the cafeteria

Why: Free income tax filing services

Details: 850-638-1180 ext. 341