2012 is right around the corner….and tax returns are due sometime after that. But some working families in our communities don’t think about tax returns; they are focused on getting the next meal on the table and paying this month’s rent. Wouldn’t it be great to help some of these families receive the tax benefits they are due? Unfortunately, many low income families who qualify let federal funds go unclaimed not knowing about the programs, not knowing how to apply, or because they are overwhelmed by the tax preparation process.
You don’t have to be a tax expert to help. Many United Ways across the country offer the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, a successful, proven strategy that mobilizes and trains volunteers to provide free tax service to working individuals and their families. VITA assists taxpayers who are struggling to make ends meet by saving them the cost of tax preparation and helping them claim all tax credits for which they are eligible.
For example, in 2011, United Way of Central Iowa VITA volunteers helped return a total of $4.3 million to its clients, in tax refunds and in refundable credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child & Dependent Care Tax Credits. Each VITA client saved approximately $150 in tax preparation fees plus fees associated with refund anticipation loans.
Behind every return there is a story. Volunteers hear these stories and experience first-hand how they are making a difference every time they volunteer. Greeters, processors, tax preparers and quality review volunteers appreciate how their specific role contributes to these families’ financial stability. All volunteers receive free training.
VITA is central to increasing the number of families who are financially stable and can have a ripple effect into the U.S. economy, as families that receive these funds typically spend them on the necessities of life.
United Way aims to cut by half the number of low-income families who are financially unstable by 2018. Can you think of a better way to spend tax season next year? Contact your local United Way to learn more.