4 Reasons to Celebrate Volunteer Income Tax Assistance
Editor’s note: Be sure to check out our VITA Awareness Day Toolkit, which makes it easy to support the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program!
Today, as we celebrate the fourth annual Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Awareness Day we also celebrate the 50th anniversary of the VITA program. The IRS-sponsored VITA program trains volunteers to help millions of low- and moderate-income people fulfill their tax obligation with accurate, free and trustworthy tax preparation. VITA sites are located at community settings like libraries, community organizations, churches and universities across the country.
As a tax preparation provider, the VITA program fulfills four critical needs.
VITA sites offer free tax preparation to people who make less than $55,000. Free tax filing provides people more money to care for their families. This is especially significant when you consider that the average cost for tax preparation is nearly $300.
VITA is in communities across the country. Many sites remove barriers to tax filing by offering interpreters, child care, day and evening hours, and making physical accommodations for people with disabilities.
Tax preparers at VITA sites must certify annually before filing a tax return. Additionally, all tax returns are reviewed by at least one other preparer before submission. Surveys of VITA quality also report highly accurate returns.
Many VITA sites connect clients to other resources like bank accounts, financial education or financial coaching. Volunteers explain the tax filing process to help taxpayers understand their tax returns and tax filing responsibilities. This year, VITA sites are helping taxpayers navigate new tax changes under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act so clients understand why their tax refund may look different.
VITA helps taxpayers get the most out of their tax refund and claim tax credits they may be eligible for, like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The benefits of VITA, however, extend beyond individual households. Since people tend to use tax refunds to pay bills and support local businesses, VITA helps build local economies. Check out VITA’s impact in your state.
In celebrating VITA Awareness Day, we acknowledge the need to continue to strengthen and support the program so it can expand its reach and impact. While significant progress has been achieved, VITA remains underfunded.
For all who are part of the VITA family—from site coordinators, tax preparers, intake specialists, and greeters, to host organizations, coalitions and clients—we celebrate you!
Want the latest resources on the VITA program and tax preparation support for low- and moderate-income filers? Join the Tax Opportunity Network! You can also support our advocacy for a tax code that works for all by joining our Right-Side Up Tax Reform Campaign!