Faces of Success: Gina Hanus
Gina Hanus has been living in and out of homelessness since she turned 18, and is actively searching for stable housing.
“I moved to Tennessee last year and have been living in a women’s shelter ever since. It’s been really hard to get any help or to get out of the shelter without my family to support me.”
Having never filed taxes before, Gina was nervous about how to get back on track and file her taxes without judgment. A referral from the IRS led her to United Way’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. The VITA Free Tax Prep program provides free income tax preparation by IRS-certified volunteers to individuals and families who qualify based on income.
“My volunteer was so helpful! She walked me through the entire tax process because I didn’t know what to expect since I’ve never filed my taxes before.”
Last year, more than 15,000 clients filed their tax returns through VITA; these clients received nearly $24 million in refunds and $4 million in tax preparation fee savings.
Gina was also eligible to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which is a benefit for low-to moderate-income working individuals. Although the EITC is typically given to recipients with children, Gina met the qualifications needed to get this important credit; income levels to meet the requirements are less than $14,880 if filing single, and less than $20,430 if filing jointly. Millions of low- and moderate-income workers are eligible for the EITC, but the IRS estimates only 4 out of 5 taxpayers actually receive it.
“I am always going to be grateful for VITA and the Earned Income Tax Credit. I plan to use my refund to pay the security deposit on my first apartment. I was recently promoted to be a manager in training at McDonald’s, and I am so happy to see that my hard work is paying off and I’m better able to support myself.”
Thanks to the VITA Free Tax Prep program, Gina was able to get the help she needed to get into stable housing. She has also been inspired by her own journey to one day open her own homeless shelter to help others in need.
“I wouldn’t have been able to have the security deposit without the help of the VITA program, and I will always be thankful for their help and support.”
For more information about the VITA Free Tax Prep program, please click here.