Tax Day is the perfect time to celebrate the work of the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and the AARP Foundation’s Tax-Aide programs. Both programs provide free tax preparation services to low-income households through dedicated IRS-certified tax volunteers. Usually, volunteers prepare an average of 40 tax returns, resulting in about $45,000 in tax refunds to their local community.
This tax season has been particularly trying for VITA sites, as COVID-19 hit and forced VITA sites across the country to close their doors.
To persevere through these challenges, many VITA sites turned to virtual tax filing, some through a partnership with Code for America’s GetYourRefund.org program.
In addition to continuing vital services, many VITA sites are taking on the role of outreach and support for Economic Impact Payments (“stimulus checks”). Although most people will receive the stimulus payment automatically from the IRS, a portion of Americans will not because they do not file taxes and don’t participate in the federally administered programs that facilitate automatic payments. These non-filers face barriers that make it challenging to get their payments, like inconsistent housing and limited internet access, and need help filling out the required online form. To address these needs, VITA sites have established helplines, in-person support for people who are homeless, created outreach resources, and much more.
These changes underscore the importance of VITA and Tax-Aide sites’ availability as a trusted resource for tax and financial information. Although the main focus of free tax preparation is to help low-income Americans file their taxes and maximize their refund, many sites provide much more, connecting clients to resources like bank accounts, financial education classes, and health insurance.
To the dedicated volunteers and staff who make these services possible, thank you!
To get involved in outreach for Economic Impact Payments, visit our outreach resources center.