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February 8, 2005


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

Open Now Through April 30th - Walk In Assistance Available
Open Mondays, Wednesdays, Thurdays, Fridays (Closed Tuesday)

Over 350 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 7, 2005. VITA volunteer Paul Kochman opened the doors at 5:30 AM to start the sign-up list, assisted by other dedicated early-riser volunteers. By 2 PM, appointment slots were filled.

VITA-NY is one of 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 many important benefits that Equity provide to its members," said Equity Executive Director Alan Eisenberg.

Conard Fowkes, Co-Founder of the Actors' Equity VITA site, was on hand to start preparing tax returns. He commented: "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."

How complicated are actors tax returns?
In describing the complicated nature of an actor's tax return, Fowkes cites the example of tours that perform across the country: "The performer will have taxes withheld in five, six or a dozen 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."

Many of VITA's clients return year after year. Equity member Bob Del Pazzo has been coming to VITA for 12 or 13 years and has always gotten money back. "This is the best thing that the Union does for its members. The volunteers are courteous and knowledgeable and I've never had a problem."

Carman Lacivita, winner of this year's Bayfield Award, showed up at 7 AM. "Last year I procrastinated and showed up on April 15 and had to wait a long time. I learned my lesson - this year, I made sure I got here on opening day." Next in line, Alicia Kaplan and Kevin Alvey have been using VITA services "forever." Kevin said: "When I was in Florida, I found a VITA office and started going there. I use VITA every year because I always get money back."

Amy Connor has been a VITA client since 1987, when she first joined Equity. "I traveled in from Long Island at 6 AM with my twins James and Williams - today's their birthday. The reason I come to VITA is because I know they do 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." Amy found out that she was getting money back this year. "I'm beaming," she said.

AEA/AFTRA member Robert Dyckman said: "When I first joined AFTRA a couple of years ago, I came to the VITA, and for the first time ever, I got a significant refund on my taxes. As a performer, no one had ever done my tax returns properly." AEA/SAG member Marissa Ignacio said "I used to do my taxes by myself, and didn't quite know what to do to get a refund. Since I've been coming to VITA, I've been 'fabulously blessed' with refunds." Robert and Marissa are getting married in June, so they're planning a joint return in 2006.

Warren Freeman discovered VITA for the first time last year. "In 2003, I got killed by a mutual fund and had to pay a lot of New York State taxes. It was very complicated. VITA worked it out for me, got a reduction on my federal tax return and made sure that everything went smoothly. That's why I'm back."

Special thanks to our volunteers who helped sign-up and prepare taxes: Sandra M. Bloom, Dick Butler, Jerry Alan Cole, Carol Emshoff, Elizabeth Flax, Conard Fowkes, Leonard Garbin, Dolores Keenan, Paul A. Kochman, John LaGioia, Susan Sigrist, and Linda Carol Young.

Walk-in appointments are available every day (except Tuesday) between now and April 30th. Fowkes encouraged 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.

Click here for VITA Info & Tax Tips

SAG/AFTRA member Shailah Edmonds with volunteer Paul Kochman. "VITA is quick, fast and efficient," says Shailah

When she first discovered VITA, SAG member Amanda "KC" hadn't done her taxes in three years. "VITA helped me with my back returns and got me out in under a hour. I love this place"

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