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Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program SuccessApril 29, 2011
In 2004, United Way of Metropolitan Nashville began offering the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program that helps families and working individuals making less than $49,000 receive free tax preparation. The program was designed to allow taxpayers receive the full amount of their tax return without losing any of it to commercial fees or rapid refund loans. United Way has established several physical VITA sites across the Metro Nashville area where taxpayers can come and take advantage of free tax preparation assistance given by trained volunteers. Individuals and families earning less than $58,000 per year qualify for the same free tax preparation assistance online.
Following an extremely successful 2010 tax season where more than 7,500 tax returns were processed through the 18 VITA sites, the 2011 tax season saw a 20% increase in visits to VITA sites, despite the decrease in actual sites to 10.
“We feel the increase in VITA site visits is basically due to word of mouth. By providing an easily accessible and easy to use free tax service, people are getting better refunds, so we are getting repeat users as well as their friends and referrals,” says Jessica Ho, VITA Program Coordinator for United Way of Metropolitan Nashville.
Through the assistance of the more than 200 volunteers who offer their time and expertise to the VITA program, nearly $14 million dollars in federal income tax refunds was put back in the pockets of hard-working families and individuals. In addition, more than $4.5 million in Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) were found. Each year, approximately 20-25% EITC refunds go unclaimed and the VITA program provides the vital guidance needed to make sure these refundable tax credits get filed properly saving families hundreds of dollars a year.
For so many Middle Tennessee residents, federal income tax returns are a necessity in making ends meet and the VITA program is just another way United Way of Middle Tennessee is hard at work making Nashville a better place to live by providing necessary assistance to help residents meet their needs.