“With my refund I will be able to pay some bills. Thank you!”- Jihan
“I have been able to save more than $7,000 and pay off some credit cards.”- Estefenia
“My refund will really help with household expenses.” – Beatriz
“The customer service was great, everyone was friendly, and we will come back again next year.” – Mayra
Imagine that you can be a part of something important for hardworking individuals and families in Orange County… something that can positively affect their financial well-being. That’s precisely what Cheryl Ryman, Vice President, Community Reinvestment Act Officer at Farmers & Merchants Bank did when she volunteered with the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program in Westminster.
“They were very accommodating with my schedule so I volunteered half days on Saturdays. At first I was terrified of making a mistake on someone’s tax return, but the staff and other volunteers were very supportive and helpful,” said Ryman. “Completing a tax return can be very intimidating, even a simple one. It’s great to be able to be part of a knowledgeable, reliable and free service that helps hard-working families right here in Orange County. I suspect that some people who are too intimidated to prepare their own taxes and can’t afford to pay to have it done, simply just don’t file a tax return and miss out on potential return.”
Just like Cheryl who gained the confidence and joy of connecting with people in our community, you too can join the ranks of hundreds of local volunteers, by helping taxpayers prepare basic tax returns and apply for tax credits and qualifying benefits. As the OC Free Tax Prep Campaign lead, United Way is currently recruiting VITA volunteers to help members of our community prepare their taxes this season. “VITA is truly a great service for low to moderate income individuals and families,” adds Ryman.
Last year, Orange County residents received more than $15 million in tax refunds and credits thanks to the VITA program. “These tax dollars stay right here in Orange County and are invested back into our local economy,” notes Brenyale Toomer-Byas, Director of Income and Housing. “We see a greater number of families benefiting from credits, such as the state and federal Earned Income Tax Credits and the Child Tax Credit, to help pay for home repair, maintain vehicles that are needed to commute to work and in some cases, obtain additional education or training to boost their employability and earning power.”
This opportunity is a great fit for a variety of volunteers:
- Retired CPA’s who want to give back or stay connected to financial services
- Accounting students looking to build their resumes
- Corporate professionals who are motivated to learn and enhance their skills
VITA sites offer many types of volunteer positions that can enhance your résumé and help members of your community:
- Greeter: Greeters welcome taxpayers to the VITA tax site during the tax season, and are responsible for assisting clients with the intake form and ensuring taxpayers have the correct tax documents and identification. This is a critical role as it is the initial point at which important tax return information is gathered and verified.
- Tax Preparer: Tax preparers assist taxpayers with their tax returns. Volunteers complete a training course and online exam to become IRS certified to prepare taxes. Bilingual tax preparers are always in high demand.
- Interpreter: Interpreters aid taxpayers by working alongside the tax clients and tax preparers. Spanish/English bilingual speaking volunteers.
- Tax Knowledge Experts/Quality Reviewers: This role is for returning volunteers, Enrolled Agents, CPAs and other professionals with tax knowledge and preparation experience. Newer volunteers will have questions, and will need mentors and professionals to help guide, answer tax questions, and ensure excellent accuracy in filing.
- Tax Guide: Assists taxpayers who are self-preparing tax returns on MyFreeTaxes.com at one of our sites.