MADISON, Wis. (3/15/16)--In serving their members and communities with tax preparation assistance, credit unions consistently support the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program.
Today is VITA Awareness Day, which aims to raise the profile of community tax preparation. “Joining VITA is another way for credit unions to fulfill the mission of helping members and participate in their communities,” said Carin McClain, tax program manager for Montana Credit Unions for Community Development.
The VITA program offers free tax help to individuals who generally make $54,000 or less, persons with disabilities, the elderly and individuals with limited English proficiency.
VITA programs help credit unions deepen relationships with members, while staff gain trust within the community, McClain said. If the taxpayer isn’t a member, she said, “then you help them open a savings or checking account and start to build a lifelong relationship.”
McClain suggested credit unions that are interested in VITA should first hold a clinic. This gives the credit union a sense of how the program works and what the community need is. “They can really see the benefit,” McClain told News Now. “They can participate in a way that complements their work without overwhelming their schedule.”
The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program offers free tax help for all taxpayers, particularly those who are 60 and older. VITA and TCE volunteers are trained and certified by the IRS to help with tax questions such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child and Dependent Care Credit.
The EITC is a significant tax credit for workers who earned $53,267 or less in 2015. Last year, more than 27.5 million eligible workers and families received almost $66.7 billion in EITC, with an average EITC amount of more than $2,400.
“VITA brings back thousands to the members and saves filing fees,” McClain said. “We are working to serve even more people in our sites that have the most returns.”
Also, at 9 a.m. (ET) on Capitol Hill today, the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) will hold a policy forum on how tax time affects low-wage workers. Intuit, Maryland CASH Campaign, the Consumer Federation of America, United Way World Wide and CFED will discuss the federal policy implications surrounding tax preparation and ways to support vulnerable taxpayers.