Business and accounting professionals, students, retirees and others interested in making a difference in their community are encouraged to help low-to-moderate income families complete their tax returns through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program
IRVINE, CA – Orange County United Way today announced a call for volunteers to help low-to-moderate income residents complete their 2016 tax returns, maximize benefits offered through the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and keep more of what they earn.
Last year, over 350 IRS certified volunteers filed over 17,500 tax returns at no cost to local families. The program returned $15.5 million to taxpayers through Federal and State refunds, and saved low-income taxpayers $3.2 million in tax preparation fees.
But way too many local families still miss out on refunds each year.
“It’s estimated that one in five eligible families leave millions of dollars in unclaimed federal tax refunds on the table each year by not claiming the EITC,” explained Brenyale Toomer-Byas, Director, Housing and Income at Orange County United Way.
Any taxpayer earning less than $60,000 a year is encouraged to participate in the program geared toward reducing their tax burden and maximizing refunds. It’s money that can help pay medical bills, save for a new family vehicle or pay off debt.
“The refund we received on our 2015 tax return allowed our family to pay off some credit cards,” said one participant in last year’s VITA program.
How to Volunteer
VITA volunteers positively impact the lives of low-to-moderate income taxpayers throughout Orange County. Volunteer Tax Preparers welcome taxpayers to each VITA site, assist them in filling out forms, ensure they have the correct tax documents and identification and complete federal and state returns.
This role is particularly ideal for college students looking to build their resumes with volunteer experience. VITA volunteers must complete a training course and online exam to become IRS certified, and United Way is here to help them.
Returning volunteers, enrolled agents, CPA’s and other professionals with tax knowledge and preparation experience are especially needed to help guide volunteers, answer tax questions and ensure accuracy in filing.
Among the most critical volunteers every year are those who speak Spanish. While these bilingual individuals are needed most at sites serving heavily Hispanic communities, Spanish-speaking interpreters and tax preparers are welcome at every VITA location.
Along with being a rewarding experience, volunteering for the VITA program is also easy due to the wide array of locations around Orange County and flexible scheduling.
“They were very accommodating with my schedule so I volunteered half days on Saturdays,” explained Cheryl Ryman, Vice President, Community Reinvestment Act Officer at Farmers & Merchants Bank and VITA volunteer in Westminster. “It’s great to be part of a knowledgeable, reliable and free service that helps hard-working families right here in Orange County.”
VITA is just one of many programs and partnerships spearheaded by United Way as part of the Income component of its FACE 2024 community-wide action plan. With the goal of reducing the number of financially unstable families in Orange County by 25 percent over the next decade, financial stability programs such as VITA, SparkpointOC financial empowerment centers, job training and financial literacy are vital to making a positive impact in the lives of low-to-moderate income families.
VITA volunteer training is available now through January 30, 2017. Free tax preparation starts January 28, 2017. Those interested in volunteering for the VITA program are encouraged to visit www.unitedwayoc.org/vita.
For more information about FACE 2024 or Orange County United Way’s other financial stability programs and partnerships, please visit www.unitedwayoc.org/face-2024.
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.