Tell Congress We Need VITA Funded at $30 Million
Right now, your Representative and Senators are trying to gauge what programs are most valuable and important to people like you, their constituents. This is because they are deciding how much money they'll put towards different programs in your community in the upcoming fiscal year (called the "appropriations process"). They need to hear from you to help them make this decision. One of these programs is the VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) program.
Throughout tax season, tens of thousands of IRS-certified volunteers—working at sites in every state nationwide—are assisting persons of limited means, people with disabilities and those with limited English proficiency in accurately fulfilling their tax obligations as well as ensuring that workers can keep the full amount of any refund for which they are eligible. The VITA program represents a model public-private partnership since every dollar the federal government contributes is matched by local, state and/or private funds.
We were thrilled to see the VITA Permanence Act passed by the House last month. If enacted, this bill would permanently authorize the VITA program and allow funding up to $30 million. While this was a great step forward for the VITA field, we still need to advocate for funding. We have to tell Congress that VITA needs to be funded at $30 million.
That’s why United Way Worldwide and Prosperity Now are partnering to push Congress to fund the VITA program at $30 million in fiscal year (FY) 2019. And today, we’re asking you to join our partnership and sign-on to our letter requesting $30 million for VITA.
For the past few years, VITA has been funded at $15 million. While the program uses volunteer time and energy to do tax preparation work, funds are still needed for staff time to coordinate the program and train volunteers as well as marketing and the cost of equipment and supplies. Demand for these in-person VITA services continues to grow—especially with the new tax legislation that will affect 2018 tax returns. Increasing VITA funding from $15 million to $30 million would help programs hire new staff to coordinate the program, add new VITA sites, substantially improve volunteer recruitment and increase outreach efforts to low-income households.
VITA supports those who cannot afford the fees for professional tax services but need assistance to accurately complete their taxes. In 2017, 4,300 VITA sites across the country prepared over 1.4 million tax returns with a 93% accuracy rate, one of the highest in the industry. These sites generated over $2.1 billion in refunds to assist households earning less than $54,000 in annual income. VITA sites connect low-income households to critical tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC).
Refunds received at tax time can make up as much as 30% of a low-income family’s annual income, but the value of this refund is eroded by costly preparation fees (at an average of $273 per tax return). Paid tax preparers are not regulated in most states, leaving some low- and moderate-income tax filers vulnerable to predatory practices. Since VITA is free, tax preparation fees as well as predatory tax time financial practices are avoided, and families can spend more of their refund on the things that matter: child expenses, transportation costs, bills, household necessities, debt repayment and future savings. VITA sites provide more than just tax preparation—they are hubs for financial capability services (such as credit counseling, housing counseling and public benefit screenings) used by low- and moderate-income families.
Please join United Way Worldwide and Prosperity Now in our partnership to double VITA funding in FY2019. Sign-on to our letter today!