IRVINE, CA – Orange County United Way today announced that local residents participating in the organization’s Free Tax Prep campaign received more than $16 million in federal and state tax refunds this year.
Of that, more than $4.24 million in refundable tax credits, known as Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) for eligible low to moderate-income working people.
“We’re pleased that our annual Free Tax Program is so successful in helping hard working families cut down on their tax burdens and get valuable refunds they may never have known existed,” explained Orange County United Way Chief Operating Officer, Carla Vargas. “These refunds allow families to save more, put down a first month’s rent deposit for stable housing or pay off a medical bill or credit card.”
More than 500 volunteers recruited for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program assisted low-income residents with tax preparation assistance. Along with tax refunds, participants also saved $3.5 million in filing fees, allowing more Orange County families to keep even more of what they earned.
On Thursday, May 18, United Way hosted a reception to thank the volunteers who collectively donated over 12,600 hours to the free tax assistance program. The volunteers include finance and tax students, retired financial professionals and community volunteers who see this as a positive way of giving back where they work and live.
These IRS-certified volunteers donated their time in several ways, including EITC outreach, promoting free tax preparation events, hosting free tax preparation sites, serving as IRS-certified volunteer tax preparers, quality reviewers and/or assistant site coordinators.
Local officials who spoke at the reception included California State Controller, Betty T. Yee, Darin Loughrey, City of Irvine Community Services Manager and Jerrie Muir, IRS SPEC, Senior Stakeholder Consultant.
Yee noted, “California is the world’s sixth largest economy, yet also home to the highest rate of poverty in the 50 states. Programs like VITA and CalEITC help those most in need in our communities while putting dollars directly into the local economy and Orange County United Way is a leading partner in this effort.”
Added Loughrey: “By contributing your time and attention to the VITA program, you forged new relationships. These relationships provide the source where people gain a sense of community, develop faith in one another and come to the realization that they live in a place where people truly care.”
From January to April of this year, nearly 30 partnering organizations offered on-site services and were recognized for their support.
Partners included: AARP Tax-Aide Foundation, Abiding Savior Lutheran Church, Abrazar, Inc., Access California Services, AIDS Services Foundation, Irvine, Anaheim Independencia FRC, Boys & Girls Club of Santa Ana, Building Skills Partnership, California State University, Fullerton, Coastline Community College, Community Action Partnership of OC, Consumer Credit Counseling Service, Cypress Community Park, Downtown Anaheim Community Center, El Modena FRC, Family Assistance Ministries, Good Hands Foundation, Irvine Valley College, Irvine One-Stop Center, Miraloma FRC, Saint Kilian Catholic Church, San Francisco Solano Catholic Church and Social Services Agency, SA Regional Center.
Additionally, this season, with support from California’s Department of Community Services and Development, United Way was able to increase public awareness about Cal EITC and the VITA program. Through culturally sensitive and customized messaging, low-income taxpayers across the county received information about Cal EITC and how to access the credits for which they qualify.
The Free Tax Prep campaign is a key element in United Way’s goal to improve the financial lives of Orange County families. With more than 30 percent of local families estimated to be living in poverty, United Way is charting a course toward financial independence by focusing on the most important tools to build financial stability. Along with free tax preparation services, programs include budgeting, financial literacy and job training so people can obtain good paying jobs. These initiatives and others, working together, are helping to break the cycle of poverty.
Katherine Ransom, Vice President, Marketing and Communications
Orange County United Way 949.263.6176, firstname.lastname@example.org
21Strat 949.981.5008, email@example.com
ABOUT ORANGE COUNTY UNITED WAY:
Since 1924, Orange County United Way has been working to improve lives and strengthen our community by mobilizing the caring power of Orange County, by focusing on the building blocks for a good quality of life: Education, Income, Health and Housing. By investing in Orange County’s children, families and individuals, we help them create pathways to self-sufficient futures through education and training. In short, we help people help themselves. Through our 10-year community-wide action plan “FACE 2024” (an acronym for Fund, Advocate, Collaborate, Educate), United Way is mobilizing local businesses, community organizations, governmental agencies and individuals to make a long-term measurable difference in the lives of local individuals and families. To learn more or to join our movement, visit www.unitedwayoc.org.