Our Free Tax Service Hits The Road!


Don’t Miss The Bus! Thanks to BB&T, our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program is hitting the road next week. Join VITA volunteers Wednesday from 5:00 – 8:00 pm at the Cecil A. Tillis Center or Thursday, from 1pm – 5:00 pm @
Transitions Homeless Shelter.


VITA is a program offering free tax preparation for Midlands’ residents with a household income of less than $50,000. In partnership with United Way of the Midlands, we offer tax assistance sites every year in Richland, Lexington, Fairfield and Newberry counties. IRS certified volunteers work tirelessly to help our clients get the refunds they deserve.

2011 tax year statistics:

  • TOTAL FEDERAL REFUND = $2,194,145
  • $17,148 Average Adjusted Gross Income of VITA client
  • 2,793 total returns prepared
  • 1,467 total volunteer hours
  • Estimated value of volunteer hours = $31,966
  • Estimated value of Free Tax Preparation = $378,430
  • $845,984 Earned Income Tax Credit claim *
  • Percentage of total refund in EITC 26% *

*based on e-file only


For more information on VITA sites and times visit under the How We Help section.


Columbia City Council moves to cut utility bills


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COLUMBIA SC — SCE&G customers in Columbia are to see a reduction in their monthly utility bills before the taxman starts collecting an extra penny-on-the-dollar sales tax this spring.

But when ratepayers will see the break is unclear.

Columbia City Council on Tuesday cast the first of two votes to lift a 2 percent “franchise fee” it imposed two years ago as a way of sustaining the struggling metropolitan bus system.

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Council did not say specifically when the fee would be lifted, but inserted a provision stating that “at no time” would any South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. customers within the city limits pay both the fee and the higher sales tax.

The fee generated between $3.5 million and $4 million annually from residential and commercial utility customers, according to the city’s finance office. The money went to Central Midlands Transit Authority, which at the time was facing deficits as high as $3 million.

The fee shows up on monthly power bills and is charged to SCE&G for the use of its power lines that are in the public rights of way. The utility company passes the expense on to in-city customers.

Critics of the sales tax referendum that was approved in November had complained that city residents and businesses would be paying twice for the bus system under the fee and sales tax arrangement.

In response to tax-increase opponents, council pledged last fall that it would stop the transit fee if the controversial sales tax won approval. Tuesday, council took its first step toward fulfilling that promise. A second vote is required before the change is legal.

Neither council members nor the city attorney were sure Tuesday night when the sales tax increase would go into effect. On Monday, Richland County Treasurer David Adams said plans are to start collecting 8 cents on the dollar instead of 7 cents as of May 1.

Still, the ordinance council voted on states that the fee will return to its previous 3 percent from the current 5 percent as of June 30, 2013.

The timing of the switch also is in question because the referendum has been challenged in court as illegal and is awaiting a ruling by the S.C. Supreme Court.

If the justices OK the tax increase, the bus system would receive $311 million during the 22-year life of the extra penny tax. That translates into an average of about $14.5 million yearly, said Bob Schneider, who oversees the daily operations of the buses.

In other action, council made no decision about moving one of the city’s best known pieces of public art, “The Plug,” a fire hydrant sculpture by artist Blue Sky. Council discussed several sites within Finlay Park including adding a splash pad for children. But council asked that city staffers come up with a plan for how such a feature would fit into design plans for the downtown park.


WIS-TV Profiles VITA 2013

Free tax preparation offered for qualifying families

Posted: Feb 02, 2013 4:59 PM EST Updated: Feb 02, 2013 5:32 PM EST

By Tim Pulliam – email
United Way volunteer helps woman with her income tax return
Volunteer helps woman with her income tax return


Dozens of families got their taxes filed for free Saturday at the Cecil Tillis Center in Columbia. It was all thanks to a joint partnership between the United Way of the Midlands and Cooperative Ministry.

“We definitely want to try to help as many people as we can” said Ron King, director over the free session, called VITA: Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.

Now in it’s fifth year, IRS certified volunteers provide income tax prep or electronic filing for families with a household income of less than $50,000.

“Our volunteers they are honed in,” said King. “In trying to make sure our clients get every single credit that they qualify for.”

$10 million in qualified tax credits and refunds in recent years, organizers say.
This year,  volunteers are expected to help 3000 people take advantage of all earned income and child tax credits. Bigger refund checks, King says some of these working class families desperately need.

“Some of the refunds put food on the table, clothes on children’s backs,” he said. “Some of these refunds help keep them out of poverty.”

The deadline to file your taxes is Monday, April 15th.  Click here to sign up for an appointment. Organizers say bring a photo ID,  Social Security card for each family member and your W2 form.


Local Taco Bell Owner Answers a TV Station’s Call to Action

When Columbia area Taco Bell owner Fred Kotoske heard WLTX news anchors ask viewers to help local people by providing beds to sleep on,  he jumped to action with a record setting mattress donation for The Cooperative Ministry.

“If we hear of a need in the community we have a strong belief in giving back to the community that supports us. Our company vision is to be servant leaders who lead by serving others and each other.  We live that every day.  To imagine children sleeping on a cold floor with freezing temperatures was just heart breaking.  We had to act,” says Kotoske.

The bed drive started when WLTX meteorologist/reporter Daniel Bonds called The Cooperative Ministry a few weeks before Thanksgiving.  Bonds said he saw a tweet on social media site Twitter that said 70 Midlands families were on a waiting list for beds.
“It was like an answer to my prayers,” Clothing and Furniture Warehouse director Yolanda Green said about Bonds request to do the story. Green told Bonds “It’s difficult sleeping at night on my bed when I know there are others out there sleeping on the floor.”
After the interview hit the air, beds started pouring into The Cooperative Ministry, individuals and organizations that wanted to help. Trenholm Road United Methodist Church donated 13 bed frames and mattresses in addition to Kotoske’s donation of 50 mattresses.


Green says the families who have come to pick up beds have been elated. “These are people who have jobs but are often struggling to pay the bills and take care of their families. They are so appreciative of the help from the community.”

The Cooperative Ministry has had an overwhelming response to our need for beds, now couches and furniture used  to store clothing is in high demand. Our Furniture Bank accepts donations which can be delivered to our offices Monday through Thursday from 9-5pm and on Friday form 9-12pm.



Show Us Your Mug and Help Fight Poverty

Lizard’s Thicket Restaurants are Fighting Poverty with a delicious way to help the people The Cooperative Ministry serves.

Through February 4th if you buy a Lizard’s Thicket anniversary mug for $5, you get free refills and the money raised helps Cooperative Ministry programs.

Cooperative Ministry staff was pleased to meet new friends and rekindle some relationships with folks who stopped by the Lizard’s Thicket on Elmwood Avenue Tuesday to show their support.


We had a lot of fun with the ladies from “Work In Progress.” Executive Director Rosemary Hedden told us they wanted to give  back to The Cooperative Ministry because they often use our clothing closet as a resource for the people they serve.
There’s still time to show us your mug!
Simply snap a picture of you with your mug and share it with us on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you to Lizard’s Thicket for blessing us with this opportunity.


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(803) 799-3853

3821 West Beltline Boulevard

Columbia, SC 29204

Cooperative Ministry