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February 4, 2004

VITA IS BOFFO ON OPENING DAY!

Vita (Volunteer Information Tax Assistance) Program Assists Hundreds Of Actors, Stage Managers With Free Tax Advice

Open Now Through April 30th – Walk In Appointments Available

Over 300 Actors and Stage Managers signed up for appointments at the opening day of the VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) office in the Equity building on Monday, February 2, 2004. VITA volunteer Linda Young opened the doors at 7 AM and started the sign-up list, assisted by other dedicated volunteers, including Carol Emshoff, Leonard Garbin, Dodi Keenan, Paul Kochman, and Neil Martin. 348 appointment slots were filled by 1 PM.

VITA – New York is one of two or three sites in the U.S. devoted exclusively to serving professional actors and stage managers as part of an IRS tax program. VITA is volunteer run and receives support from Actors' Equity, AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), SAG (Screen Actors Guild) and the GIAA (Guild of Italian American Actors). “VITA is one of the most important benefits that Equity provides for its members,” said Equity Executive Director Alan Eisenberg.

Conard Fowkes, co-founder of the Actors’ VITA site, said: “Since 1979, VITA has helped actors save millions of dollars with legitimate deductions, and expenses, not to mention tax preparation fees. Given the challenging, transient nature of the entertainment industry, actors may have tax returns from several different states, numerous employers (including some that have gone out of business) and high expenses that relate to ‘getting the job’. At VITA, we do it all.”

Many of VITA’s clients come back year after year. Terri Sabella grabbed the first appointment of the day. She got to the VITA office at about 8 AM and was able get the first slot, because she had her all of her forms and a relatively simple tax return. “I’ve had my taxes done by VITA three or four times, and I think it’s a great service. They have exceptionally wonderful volunteers who are familiar with performers’ needs and concerns. And the good news is, I think I’ll get money back this year.”

Amy Fortgang has been coming to VITA since 1987, when she first joined Equity. “I travel in from Long Island with my kids (William and James – twins!), because I know that VITA does performers’ taxes better than anyone else. VITA has gotten me through some complicated situations – I once won $60,000 in cash and prizes on a game show and they helped me with the tax consequences. Also, buying two houses, having three kids, working in different states – VITA has always made complete “cents” of my tax situation.”

Charlotte Fleming has been coming to VITA for over 10 years, since the 80s. “ I think VITA is excellent – the staff is professional and courteous. One year, I went to a regular tax preparer, and paid a lot of money – but he didn’t know anything about actors’ taxes. At VITA, I’ve always gotten money back – it’s a blessing.”

How complicated are actors tax returns? Fowkes cites the example of tours that perform across the country. The performer will have taxes withheld in five, six or seven different states. Of course, he/she must then prepare returns for each of those states. More complications arise for performers who work overseas, in the UK or Canada, where foreign taxes are withheld. Unemployment benefits, which many actors rely on between acting jobs, are taxed by the federal government and by some states, but not all.

While the appointment slots were filled, Fowkes emphasized that VITA will prepare another 1500 returns between now and April 30th. “We’re open every day except Tuesday, so we encourage union members to come early and not wait until the last minute. For further information about VITA, call 212-921-2548. VITA is located on the 14th floor at 165 West 46th Street.

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Charlotte Fleming says VITA is a 'blessing' for performers


VITA volunteers Linda Young and Neil Martin manned the sign-up desk


VITA co-founder Conard Fowkes helps Equity member Terri Sabella who was the first client of the new tax year


Amy Fortgang had a handfull on VITA's opening day: tax forms and twins!

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