Lucia, a single mother who works at an Arlington high school, appreciated how United Way’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program saved her “a lot of money” by preparing her taxes for free. The tax refund received by Marisa, a single mother of three (shown here with her children), was enough to help pay her car loan and other bills. David, a Fort Worth father of three pre-teen children, learned about savings bonds at a VITA site and began buying them as an investment in his children’s future.
There’s a lot to like about the VITA program, which is why the program this year saw more tax returns completed than last year, more tax refund dollars returned to our community, more Child Tax Credit dollars received, and more refund dollars saved by families. The VITA centers completed 7,932 returns that produced $13,347,122 in tax refunds. This included $5,177,050 in Earned Income Tax Credits, and $4,602,630 in Child Tax Credits.
In addition, 222 families chose to save $300,503 by buying a Savings Bond with part of their return or dividing their refund between their checking and savings accounts. That was more than six times the amount families saved last year. These resources will benefit both the families and the entire community in the months and years to come.
From 2010 to 2015, the VITA centers generated $45 million in tax refunds. That included $17.2 million in Earned Income Tax Credit. The average tax refund for a family was $1,726—a considerable amount considering that the average family income of VITA customers is about $19,000 to $20,000.
United Way’s partners—Catholic Charities, the City of Fort Worth, Foundation Communities, UTA and the IRS, made the 2016 VITA Centers possible, as did the hundreds of volunteers who worked long hours with training provided by the IRS. This year 205 volunteers gave more than 7,400 hours to provide the free tax assistance that put more money into the pockets of low- and middle-income families. If the VITA customers had paid an average of $300 to have their taxes done by a paid tax preparer, they would have spent $2,379,600 in fees.
BNSF Railway and the Star-Telegram helped spread the word about the VITA centers and other life-changing services offered through the United Way EARN WELL financial stability initiative. BNSF Railway, represented by BNSF Railway Vice President of Corporate Relations Zak Andersen (shown here on the left with United Way CEO Tim McKinney), generously underwrote six months of public awareness promotion about VITA and other EARN WELL services in the Star-Telegram.
VITA is part of United Way Worldwide’s strategy to help families become financially secure, and United Way Worldwide has been following the growth of the VITA program here in Tarrant County.
UWTC and United Way Worldwide will use videos to promote VITA, including videos produced by United Way of Tarrant County showing area families talking about how they benefitted from VITA.