Nearly 5,000 households in the Sacramento area took advantage of United Way-led free tax programs this year, resulting in more than $5 million in money claimed and saved through the Earned Income Tax Credit, other credits and refunds, and lack of tax preparation fees. The in-person Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, led by United Way California Capital Region in this area, helped 3,710 local households, and United Way’s MyFreeTaxes.com helped 983 users file taxes with an average refund of $1,433.
Last year at about this time, I was thrilled that our United Way decided to take on the leadership role for Sacramento’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) coalition at the request of Community Link, which ran it for its first decade.
VITA is an amazing program that saves thousands of local low-income families lots of money by offering free filing by IRS-certified volunteers, and also helps them claim (collectively) millions of dollars through the state and federal Earned Income Tax Credits. Households who file through VITA get average refunds of more than $2,000, and some get as much as $6,000. My job is to help people build financial stability, and that money goes a long way toward that end.
Sounds great, right? And it is. But while I was thrilled, I was also a bit daunted to say the least. VITA is a very complex endeavor and I knew we needed to bring in the right expertise. While I was immediately thinking about the fundraising I’d need to do, I got an invitation to last year’s tax season wrap-up and debrief at our local IRS office. It was there that Diana Clay introduced herself to me.
Kristina and Alex, both students at Sierra College in Rocklin, qualify for the VITA program and received free tax filing assistance, saving them more than $160 in tax-preparation fees at the Super Saturday VITA kick-off event on Jan. 30.
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program is a national program that offers free help to people who make a limited income and need help preparing their tax returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic tax return preparation with electronic filing. VITA volunteers inform taxpayers about special tax credits for which they may qualify such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled.
Local in-person VITA site locations are listed here. Sites are located at community and neighborhood centers, schools and other convenient locations. Appointments can be made here or by calling 2-1-1.
The local VITA coalition (Sacramento Coalition for Working Families), led by United Way, also offers myfreetaxes.com to help local residents save money and file their taxes online for free, saving hundreds of dollars in tax preparation fees.
A big thank you to the companies and organizations that make our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) work possible. Their financial contributions are helping local residents save money for the things that matter most and receive credits like the state and federal Earned Income Tax Credits.
Interval Revenue Service*
We also are grateful to the following organizations that provide crucial support for local VITA work.
Thanks also to our many community volunteers who complete IRS VITA certification and work at our sites to provide free tax help in various languages.
VITA is a national program of the IRS and offers free help to people who make a limited income and need help preparing their tax returns. United Way California Capital Region leads the local effort for Sacramento County.
*The IRS awarded a $44K grant to United Way California Capital Region to support its VITA work.