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Life and Religion

Free tax filing initiative helps families with EITC
Volunteers to provide free tax services for 8,000 working households
 
Published Wednesday, February 5, 2014
by Staff Reports

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COURTESY PHOTO
Tax preparers work with clients at Goodwill’s Career Development Center. Tax preparers at all VITA sites are certified through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The IRS estimates that nearly 20 percent of the families eligible to receive the Earned Income Tax Credit do not claim the credit because they lack awareness of the program, cannot afford costly tax preparation fees or fear they will lose public benefits by filing.

The credit and subsequent refunds often provide critical dollars for working families to be used toward such things as reducing debt, establishing a savings fund, and covering general household, education or medical expenses.

In an effort to assist more families in taking advantage of this credit, an EITC Awareness Day event was held Feb. 1 at Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont where more than 130 residents of Mecklenburg County who were eligible to claim the credit received free tax preparation services and information about tax refunds. 

The event kicked off the local Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) initiative for Mecklenburg County’s low-to-moderate income workforce during the 2014 tax-filing season.

VITA is an IRS program designed to help individuals and families complete their annual tax returns at no cost. Eligibility is capped at households with an adjusted gross income of $52,000 or less. Community Link spearheads the initiative locally as a way to help working individuals build financial stability to obtain and sustain housing. 

“Goodwill believes that earning a paycheck and having the skills to be financially independent are important to the well-being of individuals and their families,” states, LaToya Lowery, workforce skills training specialist and VITA/EITC coordinator at Goodwill.  “The partnership with Community Link supports our goal of providing a holistic approach to helping people achieve family-sustaining employment.”  

Goodwill Industries along with nine other partnering organizations are operating VITA sites during the 2014 tax-filing season. An additional nine partnering organizations will operate AARP sites, targeting seniors. More than 200 trained volunteers will serve as tax preparers. Through this community-wide collaboration, Community Link hopes to prepare and file taxes for 8,000 working households through April 15.

Last tax filing season, local VITA volunteers filed more than 7,500 tax returns, resulting in over $7.5 million in refunds. The average EITC refund was $1,385 while the average total refund was $1,425.

 

Operating times of all the VITA sites, eligibility requirements, and information on scheduling appointments can be found online at www.clvita.org or by phone at (704) 761-VITA (8482).

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