At United Way, one of our core focus areas is helping our neighbors keep more of what they earn so that every individual has a chance at a better life—which is why many people across Middle Tennessee depend on our VITA program during tax season.
VITA stands for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance. It’s a completely free program in which IRS-certified volunteers prepare taxes at no cost for thousands of individuals
The average taxpayer spends $273 to file their taxes each year. For low-income and at-risk individuals, those are crucial dollars that could go toward rent, food, child care and gas.
On April 15, we wrapped up our 15th annual VITA program in which more than 300 volunteers completed more than 14,000 returns, helping taxpayers save more than $3 million in tax preparation fees and bringing millions in federal refunds back to the community. On average, the VITA program has returned $20 million annually to the community since 2003.
Any individual or family may qualify for free tax prep if they earned less than $66,000 in 2018.
United Way partners to operate 33 VITA sites across Middle Tennessee. Volunteers also help qualifying individuals receive important credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit that lift millions out of poverty each year. In fact, 25 percent of those who qualify don’t receive the EITC simply because they don’t even know to claim it.
VITA is so unique in that it depends entirely on IRS-certified volunteers to serve as tax preparers.
“Volunteering for the VITA program is an opportunity for me to use my passion for helping people with their personal finances,” says one volunteer LaNessa Jackson. “Taxes can be very scary but we as volunteers go through a really nice methodology with the client by sitting down with them and walking them through the process so that when the client leaves there, they understand what their taxes look like. It’s an educational opportunity and gives them the chance to truly increase their knowledge.”