It’s tax time and inside the old Olympia store in South Burlington’s University Mall, people are getting help with their tax returns at no cost. It’s part of CVOEO’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program.

“It provides such a service to so many people who feel so unsure about how to get their taxes done accurately and with some compassion,” said Travis Poulin, director of Chittenden Community Action.

He says you must make less than $57k a year to qualify for the 1 on 1 appointment. The tax program is possible thanks to about 30 volunteers, many students from UVM, St. Michael’s, and Champlain colleges. They’ve all received training and certification with the IRS.

Unless there’s a cancellation, it will be tough to take advantage this year. Poulin says some tax programs have been cancelled so he’s received an overflow of inquiries.

“We have folks who have never had to file income taxes,” he said. “They’re on social security, disability, veterans income, these are traditionally non-taxable forms of income. But if you didn’t get the stimulus package, you need to file in order to claim, so were getting some of those phone calls.”

CVOEO will complete about 12 hundred returns come mid April. Something staff say would not have been attainable without the unexpected empty retail space inside the mall for physical distancing.

“Despite the challenges that we’ve faced this year, I also think a few things came together with perfect symmetry,” Poulin said.