For many families, tax refunds are essential to financial stability. In fact, many initiatives to get money into the hands of those who need it most are baked into the tax code. But many filers aren’t aware of how much they’re eligible to receive. For example, 1 in 5 families misses out on an additional $2,100 each year because they don’t know that they qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit. In Massachusetts alone, that’s over $200 million left on the table annually – money our communities need more than ever. That’s why United Way is committed to helping people make the most of their return. We do this through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program – licensed, free tax prep assistance – and myfreetaxes.com – a free online tax prep site. This year, United Way’s partner sites will help more than 4,000 households file and leverage $6,000,000 in returns.
“We are very focused on making sure they’re aware of things like the Circuit Breaker Credit in Massachusetts, the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit. People aren’t aware of a lot of these programs,” shares longtime VITA volunteer David Burn.
Evelyn Friedman, Executive Director of VITA site Greater Lawrence Community Action Council (GLCAC), says their clients often make back 10% of their income in refunds – money which is vital to their well-being throughout the year.
HOW TO GET FREE TAX PREPARATION
While in-person assistance at a VITA site is a must for some people, many more can qualify for help from United Way’s myfreetaxes.com. With the pandemic at hand, a service like MyFreeTaxes that allows people to file for free online with IRS-certified support every step of the way has never been more important. The site has no income limit or age restrictions, supports unlimited state returns and is free for all filers with no add on fees. Best of all, it offers IRS-certified call support to assist with filing and connections to a VITA site if in-person assistance is needed. Once you have your return, here are some of the best ways to use it according to experts.
HOW TO HELP PEOPLE GET ASSISTANCE
With your donations, United Way provides financial support to VITA sites across Greater Boston including sites at Quincy CAP, Chelsea Connect, JVS-Boston, and Roxbury Center for Financial Empowerment, among others in Salem, Beverly, Lawrence, and Southern NH.
“At the end of the day, people getting their returns done at a VITA site can be assured that they’re getting their full return and their taxes will be prepared correctly. I don’t know if that is true for every fee-based service out there,” says Tom, another longtime VITA volunteer.
He shares just how surprised many families are when they receive their return, remembering one single mother in particular who became emotional upon learning about her return. Her car, which she relied on to get to work and transport her children around town, was near the end of its life and the return was enough to buy a more reliable car. “When you see that happen, you really feel good about volunteering. You’re helping people in their everyday lives.”
Spread the word
Do you have employees, or program participants who would benefit from free tax preparation? This marketing packet will make it easy for you to post and share online with your network. Check out the kit.
Volunteering for this year is closed. Sites typically seek volunteers in the early fall so they have time to train before tax season begins in February. Contact us with your name, location, and interest in becoming a VITA volunteer and we will connect you with opportunities to serve.