The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is an often overlooked but invaluable resource for families across the country, including many of the people served at Crisis Assistance Ministry. Aimed at promoting financial wellness and administered by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), VITA relies on trained volunteers to provide free tax preparation services to eligible taxpayers. Because the service is free, people who utilize VITA can keep more of their hard-earned money instead of paying a tax preparer or potentially making a costly mistake by preparing their own returns.
The VITA program was established in 1969 to offer free tax help to people with low to moderate incomes. It operates in partnership with community organizations and provides a range of services, including:
- Free Tax Preparation: The primary feature of the VITA program is free tax preparation for federal and state returns. All volunteer preparers must pass tax law training that meets or exceeds IRS standards, and every VITA-prepared return undergoes a quality review before filing.
- Electronic Filing (E-filing): VITA centers offer electronic filing services, enabling taxpayers to submit their returns electronically. E-filing is not only safe and convenient but also ensures faster processing and quicker receipt of any potential refunds.
- Education and Outreach: Beyond tax preparation, VITA volunteers engage in community outreach and educational efforts. This includes providing information about tax credits and deductions taxpayers may be eligible for, helping them maximize their refunds.
Eligibility for VITA is determined by household income level, which can vary slightly depending on the organization administering the program, but generally is around $64,000 per year.
Want to schedule an appointment for Free Tax Preparation through VITA?
Locally, VITA is administered by two nonprofit organizations: Community Link and the Ada Jenkins Center. These agencies oversee VITA sites throughout the county. Hours of operation vary by site, but the overall VITA program is open from February 1 through April 15.
To find a VITA site in the north Mecklenburg County area, check out this list from the Ada Jenkins Center: https://www.adajenkins.org/services/vita/
For a list of VITA sites in other parts of Mecklenburg County, refer to this information from Community Link: https://www.communitylinknc.org/pages/vita
If you have family and friends outside of Mecklenburg County who might benefit from VITA, refer them to the IRS’s online VITA locator tool. This database allows users to search for VITA sites throughout the country based on their zip code, ensuring easy access to assistance.
VITA Makes an Important Difference for Families
The VITA program benefits low-to-moderate-income families in our community in several important ways:
- By providing free tax preparation services, VITA helps individuals and families save money that would otherwise be spent on professional tax assistance.
- VITA volunteers are trained to identify tax credits and deductions that may benefit taxpayers, potentially leading to larger refunds.
- VITA fosters community engagement by relying on local volunteers and nonprofit organizations to deliver services. This not only promotes financial wellness for individuals but also strengthens community bonds.
- Through outreach efforts, VITA contributes to the financial education of taxpayers, empowering them with knowledge about their tax obligations and entitlements.
Long a champion of VITA, Crisis Assistance Ministry actively promotes the program to its customers and the community at large because of these benefits. In 2024, member agencies of Financial Security CLT have identified VITA as a critical way to empower our neighbors to move toward economic stability and build a foundation for a brighter financial future.