BEYOND THE NUMBERS
Tax Day is an ideal time to recognize the critical services that volunteers provide through free tax preparation programs such as the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and the AARP Foundation’s Tax-Aide. These programs provide professional tax filing assistance to low-income households.
At least 90,000 volunteers helped file more than 3 million tax returns at 11,117 VITA and Tax-Aide sites across the country this year. As early as January each year, volunteers help clients complete their returns, review them for accuracy, and submit them electronically. In addition to helping taxpayers properly file their returns, volunteers help clients claim all the tax credits they’ve earned, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, which help workers meet day-to-day needs and care for their families.
Volunteers undergo hours of training and must pass an annual certification exam before they can assist tax filers. This year, they received additional training to understand how to complete new questions and tax forms related to the health reform law. (They used CBPP’s Health Reform Beyond the Basics’ materials for tax preparers to help them learn how to accurately assist clients who are claiming Premium Tax Credits.)
While April 15 signifies the end of tax season for many, volunteers will continue to help working families by assisting late filers, following up with clients to connect them to community and social services, identifying new locations for tax preparation, providing financial education classes, and contacting employers and organizations to spread the word about the services. CBPP’s Tax Credit Outreach website will continue to serve as a reference for these volunteers and organizations hosting free tax filing sites.
To all the volunteers who made it possible for millions of low- and moderate-income people to file their tax returns by April 15 and claim $3.6 billion in federal refunds — thank you!