Imagine helping a single mother start an education fund for her children. Or paying a month’s rent for someone who recently lost his job. You can do this and more by volunteering at a United Way VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) Center.
United Way’s IRS-supported, free tax preparation centers enable low-income working families to have a little more money in their pockets by avoiding tax preparation fees and obtaining tax credit refunds such as the Earned Income Tax Refund and Child Tax Credit. Families are encouraged to use 30 percent of their refund to pay off debt, 40 percent for something enjoyable such as a television or vacation, and 30 percent for savings. They also are referred to other useful services, such as financial education classes, job training and GED classes.
More than 400 volunteers will be needed to staff 12 VITA centers across Tarrant County in January, February, March and April. Volunteers are asked to work at least one four-hour shift a week for at least the last week of January through the first week of March.
Here are four great ways you can get involved:
• Welcome taxpayers and oversee sign-in.
• Ensure families are directed to correct areas.
• Greet and screen all taxpayers to ensure that they have necessary information and documentation required to complete tax return.
• Explain the VITA packet to each taxpayer and assist in completing information.
• Attend a one-hour training session.
• Provide free interpretation and translation services to customers who are not fluent in English or may need assistance.
• Complete training for interpreters.
• Participate in IRS tax training and complete certification.
• Prepare simple tax returns.
• Discuss the tax return with the taxpayer after quality review process is complete.
Volunteer training will be held in December and January. No prior qualification is required to be a VITA tax preparer. A VITA staff person will be present at all times, and each tax return is reviewed before being submitted to the IRS.
During the 2014 tax season, VITA volunteers prepared 5,198 returns, helping families receive more than $4 million in Earned Income Tax Credit. In 2015 we’re hoping to help even more families. To volunteer or learn more, email VITA@unitedwaytarrant.org or visit www.freetaxdfw.com.