March 16, 2022

This year, Wednesday, March 16th is Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Awareness Day!

For over half a century, the VITA program has provided free tax preparation services to lower-income Americans. Built on public-private partnerships and led by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the VITA program trains and certifies volunteers to help low – and moderate-income families need assistance to accurately complete their taxes. Each year, thousands of IRS-certified volunteers—working at sites in every state—assist individuals and households of limited means, persons with disabilities, and those with limited English proficiency in accurately fulfilling their tax obligations. These volunteers also ensure that families can claim and keep the full amount of any tax credits that they have earned and are eligible for, including critical tax credits such as the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

Building on lessons learned from last year’s tax filing season, VITA providers are prepared to connect families to the second half of the expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC) as well as workers eligible to the expanded Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). With increased demand for VITA services, VITA programs continue to modernize their service delivery, moving from traditional face-to-face service to alternative options including drop-off services, virtual VITA, and facilitated self-assistance like MyFreeTaxes. In 2021, more than 2,800 VITA sites prepared almost one million tax returns which generated $1.7 billion in refunds to low- and moderate-income households. In 2021, Pocono Mountains United Way prepared 225 returns, generating over $275,000 in refunds. Additionally, participating VITA sites maintained a 96% accuracy rate—the highest in the industry!

On March 10th, Congress passed a spending bill for FY22 that included $30M for VITA. Moving forward, our ask for VITA funding is $45 million. Even without the increased need from the pandemic, the current funding level represents only a fraction of the costs of operating VITA sites nationwide, and programs often operate at full capacity. Increasing VITA funding would help sites hire new staff to coordinate the program, training to maintain the effectiveness of the program and low error rate, add new VITA locations, substantially improve volunteer recruitment, and increase outreach efforts to low-income households.

Over the next few weeks, your Members of Congress will return to their home districts for recesses before the end of the tax season, creating the perfect opportunity for outreach (in-person or virtual) that can drive home the impact of the program and the need to fund it. This is the time to tell them about why VITA is critical in our community. Please take a few minutes to share your story on what the Child Tax Credit means for you and your family.