Did you know you can help bring an average $1,145 in refunds per a return by hosting a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance event in your local community? The White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships recently held a conference call about the important benefits this program can have for local individuals through a conference call we co-hosted with the Stakeholder Partnerships Education and Communications Office within the Internal Revenue Service.
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites offer free tax help to low- to moderate-income (generally, $49,000 and below) people who cannot prepare their own tax returns. Certified volunteers sponsored by various organizations receive training to help prepare basic tax returns in communities across the country. Nationwide, more than 3 million taxpayers received free tax help from a variety of partners working with the IRS last year. Within the group, faith-based partners completed and filed over 205,000 volunteer returns last year. While it is great that faith-based organizations are already participating in the partnership with IRS, a 20% increase in returns prepared by faith-based partners could yield approximately $47 million in refunds for their clients.
So how can you be involved? First review the powerpoint developed for the recent conference call to learn more about these efforts. After that, identify any existing activities in your community. To determine if anyone in your community is already hosting an event or VITA/TCE site send an email to email@example.com. A local IRS-SPEC representative will contact you to provide further details.
Once you know about any existing efforts in your community, determine if your resources would be best used by
- volunteering for an existing event or VITA/TCE site,
- hosting an event or VITA/TCE site at a different time and geographic area, or
- hosting an event or VITA/TCE site if there is not an existing program in your community.
If you are leader of a local congregation or community organization, explore support for joining VITA/TCE activities and then contact IRS for next steps at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are a leader of multiple organizations or congregations, consider holding meetings and disseminating information regarding volunteering and/or hosting VITA/TCE activities to your organization’s key staff. Then let the IRS Stakeholder Partnerships Education and Communications Office know how you are supporting these efforts by emailing them at email@example.com.
Lastly, if you are able to aggregate interest in a specific geographic region, hold a regional meeting with those organizations in your local community interested in VITA/TCE in conjunction with IRS and HHS resources. Local IRS staff may be able to attend and facilitate plans to integrate community based organizations into the VITA program for the upcoming filing season.
Joshua DuBois serves as Special Assistant to President Obama and Executive Director of The White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.