MADISON, Wis. (3/26/15)--Filing tax returns can be challenging and a little scary. Credit unions, with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, step up to help consumers file their taxes properly and receive the tax credits they've earned.
VITA programs offer free tax-preparation assistance to economically eligible populations as well as elderly, disabled or non-English speaking taxpayers. Certified preparers also help identify eligibility for earned income tax credits (EITC) and navigate new rules under the Affordable Care Act (News Now Jan. 26).
During its five-day VITA program, Firstmark CU helped 163 families prepare and file their 2014 income taxes for an estimated $400,000 in refunds, the San Antonio, Texas, credit union reported.
"We saw a high turnout each day which validates the need for this kind of assistance," said President/CEO Leon Ewing.
By the first part of March, Montana credit unions and Montana Credit Unions for Community Development partners had electronically filed more than 2,120 tax returns at VITA sites. More than a third were filed at credit union-sponsored sites, and the certified volunteers helped Montanans claim more $987,000 in federal refunds, including $313,586 in EITC (President's Report March 6).
In addition to its 12 branch locations, Bethpage (N.Y.) FCU will take its VITA program to local libraries and community centers. Last year the credit union secured more than $700,000 in earned income tax credits for eligible families, according to Rob Suarez, assistant vice president of community development. Bethpage also completed 2,489 VITA tax returns and helped taxpayers claim refunds of more than $2.8 million, a 23% increase from 2013.
CORE FCU, East Syracuse, N.Y., tapped seven students from East Syracuse-Minoa High School to serve as certified tax preparers. The students work under the supervision of credit union employees and IRS-certified volunteers.
"They pick up tremendous math and financial accounting skills," CORE FCU President/CEO Bill Sweeney told WSYR-TV (March 14). "They also get an opportunity to be community leaders and not only learn from the program, but also give back to the community."