Volunteer Income Tax Assistance
Many working families in Linn County don’t have access to affordable tax preparation services or are unaware of programs like the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program that could put thousands of dollars in their hands and into our local economy.
VITA is an IRS program designed to help low- and moderate-income taxpayers complete their annual tax returns at no cost. Most low-income families can’t afford to pay a professional tax preparer, on average, $270 to get their taxes done. Families in this situation choose to complete their own taxes (often missing larger tax returns) or choose not to file. Free tax preparation provided by skilled volunteers offers a better solution.
During the 2015 tax year, VITA volunteers completed and filed state and federal income tax returns for 1,735 people in Linn County — an increase of 2.3% from the previous year. In addition, VITA saved low- to moderate-income taxpayers about $374,760 by having their taxes done for free.
Who is involved
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program is a collaborative effort across organizations and communities. United Way of East Central Iowa convenes multiple partners each year to improve services and returns to area families and communities. United Way also recruits and trains VITA volunteers for locations in Linn County. To make an appointment for the VITA program, please contact 2-1-1 to get connected to the site nearest you.
VITA success stories:
After visiting a VITA site last year, a single mother was able to say, “I can move my children into our own home” — thanks to the money from her tax return.
Her federal refund totaled more than $11,000. The VITA volunteer explained that this resulted from her dedication to working full-time while also going to school. Child tax credit, earned income credit, and education credit all contributed to her total return.
The VITA volunteer asked the young mother what she planned to do with her refund. Through tears of joy, she said, “We have been living in a shelter and I was going to stay there until I was done with school. But now, I can make a home for them.”
A single grandfather came to a VITA location and found out his tax return was more than he could have imagined.
Once VITA finished his taxes, he didn’t understand why the refund was greater than it had been in past years. He had a local attorney do his taxes the past ten years. The VITA volunteer explained the credits he was receiving and recommended that he bring in his past years so that they could look at them.
The man and his wife received custody of his grandson when their daughter passed away. The following year, his wife passed and he raised his grandson on his own. The VITA volunteer noticed the incorrect filing status on each year’s return since his wife passed; no child tax credit, no earned income credit, and no education credits since his grandson had started college.
By using VITA, the grandfather was able to claim an additional $4,000 in refunds.