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February 3, 2003

VITA Kicks Off 25th Season of Tax Assistance for Performers 330 Appointments Filled on Opening Day Walk Ins Accepted Now Through April 15, 2003

(left to right) Ryan Patrick Binder, Kim Yancey Moore and VITA voluteers Betsy Delellio and Neil Martin

Susan Barrett (left) and VITA volunteer Carol Emshoff working under the watchful eyes of former AEA presidents Ron Silver and Colleen Dewhurst and current president Patrick Quinn.

Mary Lou Westerfield provides tax information.

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Office (VITA) has opened for its 25th season in New York. Over 300 appointments were quickly filled by AEA, AFTRA, and SAG members seeking free tax assistance with their 2002 tax returns.

During tax season, walk-in appointments are available on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, between 11 AM and 5 PM (VITA is never open on Tuesdays). You must come in person, show your Equity, SAG or AFTRA card and pick up a packet of worksheets prior to having your taxes done. The VITA office is located at 165 West 46th Street. For further information, call 212-921-2548.

First in line on February 3rd was Angela Cove, who arrived at 4:30 AM from her home in Queens to get an appointment. This is Angela's second season with VITA, and she was delighted because "I got money back last year, so I'm hoping to do as well this season." Cove was assisted by VITA co-founder, Conard Fowkes.

"This is one of the most important services we provide to our members," said Equity Executive Director Alan Eisenberg. "VITA has helped thousands of actors save millions of dollars with legitimate deductions, and expenses, not to mention tax preparation fees. VITA was instrumental in obtaining the passage of the Qualified Performing Arts Artist Provision in the Tax Codes in 1986, which allows low income actors to deduct their professional expenses directly from their gross income."

Fowkes noted that when tax time comes around, no one has greater difficulty with tax returns than professional actors. "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," he said.

For 25 years, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA), part of a federal IRS tax program which has sites all over the US, is one of two or three sites in the US devoted exclusively to serving professional actors and stage managers. The program is funded by Actors' Equity, AFTRA, SAG and the GIAA. VITA sites are located in New York, Los Angeles and Seattle. For further information, go to the VITA information page.

Eisenberg and Fowkes thanked the VITA staff and volunteers who helped to make it all happen, including Neil Martin, Betsy Delellio, Carol Emshoff, Leonard Garbin, Paul Kochman, Linda Carol Young, John LaGioia and Mary Lou Westerfield.

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