As Americans rushed to file their taxes yesterday, for many hardworking taxpayers, tax day signals yet another bill they can’t afford and anxiety over the integrity of their preparation. Each year during tax season, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers a solution to that burden—allowing taxpayers to fulfill their civic duty through free, high quality tax preparation assistance. IRS-certified volunteers prepare taxes for those who make $54,000 or less and often come from underserved populations—such as the elderly, and those with disabilities or limited English proficiency.
4,300 VITA sites around the country prepared over 1.4 million tax returns in 2017, generating over $2.1 billion in refunds for the pockets of working families. VITA also helps those who earn working family tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) claim the full amount. And many sites offer financial coaching and resources to help clients climb the ladder of financial stability.
Funding for the program is subject to the annual budget cycle, but Congress now wants to make it a permanent part of the federal budget. This is great news for low-income families and individuals who rely on VITA each and every year. Without this certainty, millions of taxpayers would be left vulnerable to predatory, unaffiliated preparers or lenders.
Over 380 United Ways across the country fund, operate or support VITA programs, and as network we invest $17.4 million in free tax preparation initiatives. VITA is a matching grant program, so in order for organizations like ours to participate- they must match the funding they receive. Communities are putting their skin in the game, but they couldn’t do this without the partnership with the IRS. We are committed to providing our communities with the tools they need to be financially strong and secure – and we are pleased that Congress is showing they’re committed as well.
Just yesterday, the U.S. House favorably passed the VITA Permanence Act. The bill now heads to the Senate for approval- hopefully in time for next tax season.
Please join us in supporting VITA, by tweeting your Member of Congress using the sample below:
.@Representative Thank you for supporting #VITA! Making the program permanent and shoring up investments to $30 mn means more $ to pockets of working families in your district. #UWAdvocate
.@Senator: Please support #VITA! Making the program permanent and shoring up investments to $30mn means more $ to the pockets of working families in our state! #UWAdvocate
Or, by sending a message to your Member of Congress expressing your support!