Jeff Myers lives with multiple sclerosis and without a computer, so for the past several years, he has gone to Widener University School of Law in Harrisburg, PA to receive assistance in filing his taxes. To him, it’s more than an annual appointment. It is a lifeline to money he’s due.
Budding lawyers at the school and other volunteers at 17 nearby locations have signed up for United Way of the Capital Region’s free Money in Your Pocket program to help low- to moderate-income working families complete federal, state and local tax returns. Many of the program’s volunteers have helped taxpayers in their community for the past 10 years. Last year 260 of them filed 5,332 tax returns, resulting in more than $5.1 million returned to local families and helping increase their income by an average of six percent. As this year’s tax filing deadline looms, hundreds of volunteers are again making sure taxpayers get the maximum refund they deserve.
Hundreds of other United Ways across the U.S. train volunteers like these to prepare returns through the Internal Revenue Service’s Volunteer Tax Income Assistance (VITA) program. All volunteers – from greeters to tax preparers to quality reviewers – go through training. While many volunteers have backgrounds in finance, quite a few sign up to learn something new. Taxpayers report using refunds to pay off existing debt, buy household necessities, and increase savings.
The volunteers find it rewarding to be part of an effort that directly helps move people toward financial independence and a better quality of life. Velma, a volunteer with United Way of Wapello County (IA), said, “I love making a difference even though I can’t commit a lot of time.” Donna, another volunteer, said, “I enjoy helping people … get the much needed refunds without the cost of a paid preparer.”
You, too, can help make sure people in need receive their due. Contact your local United Way to learn about VITA programs in your area and join other volunteers in making an immediate impact.