By Janne Huang
*Cross-posted from Off the Charts
Each year, thousands of volunteers offer their time and expertise at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites across the country to help low-income people file their taxes. Today is VITA Awareness Day, designed to call attention to this valuable free tax assistance and thank the volunteers for their hard work.
Taxes are often complicated so, not surprisingly, many taxpayers turn to others for help. But hiring a professional tax preparer is costly: simple tax preparation services range, on average, from $159 to $273, depending on how complex the returns are. These fees can be prohibitively expensive, and they reduce the value of a filer’s tax refund.
VITA helps taxpayers keep more of their earnings and puts money back into local economies. And unlike paid preparers, who aren’t required to have a license, VITA volunteers are trained extensively and certified by the IRS each year.
VITA volunteers make sure clients claim the credits they’ve earned, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit. They also help taxpayers avoid costly products and services like refund anticipation checks, whose fees can eat up much of a filer’s tax refund. In 2015, volunteers helped 3.3 million clients get $4 billion in federal tax refunds.
Thank you to the thousands of VITA volunteers and coordinators and happy VITA Awareness Day.