Faces of Success: Rebecca Palmer
Graduate school is stressful enough without having to worry about budgets. While some students receive stipends from their institution, most rely on loans or jobs to make ends meet. Nursing student Rebecca Palmer constantly worried about her budget last year. She needed every penny she could save.
“Things got really tight toward the end of the second semester,” said Palmer.
She was looking for a way to maximize her tax return, but Palmer couldn’t afford to pay to file her taxes. Her tax situation was also extremely tricky.
“In the past, I’ve filed wrong, and I’ve received letters from the IRS about some of the errors I’ve made. While these previous issues were always resolved, I’ve always felt completely overwhelmed by the process.”
Palmer turned to United Way’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program to help alleviate some of her stress and anxiety. IRS-certified volunteers prepare free tax returns for individuals and families who qualify based on income. Last tax season, VITA volunteers also assisted qualified individuals and families with free online tax filing, thanks to a United Way partnership with the Walmart Foundation and United Way Worldwide, known as MyFreeTaxes.com. This option was perfect for Palmer because an IRS-certified volunteer at the Vanderbilt site helped her learn how to properly file her tax returns.
“My volunteer was so helpful, patient and kind. He told me, ‘We’ll sit down together and figure out your tax situation.’’’
Over the past six years, more than 73,000 clients have filed their tax returns through the VITA Free Tax Prep program. During this same time period, individuals and families have received more than $137 million in tax credits and refunds. Palmer was grateful she didn’t have to pay to file last year’s returns; her refund enabled her to address another very important issue.
“It allowed me to make repairs to my car. Now, I don’t worry about breaking down on the side of the road anymore.”
A key component of Palmer’s refund last year was the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC is a transformative tax benefit for millions of low- and moderate-income workers, but the IRS estimates 20 percent of eligible taxpayers don’t receive it. The volunteer who helped Palmer made sure she didn’t miss out on this important benefit during the filing process.
“I’d never heard of the EITC before last year’s VITA experience. It added so much more money to my return. This is a wonderful service, and it made me feel like I wasn’t alone.”
The VITA Free Tax Prep program became Palmer’s new best friend last spring. It gave her the peace of mind to focus more on her coursework and less on her budget.
For more information about the VITA Free Tax Prep program, please click here.