More than $11 million in total refunds, including more than $5 million in Earned Income Tax Credits, is coming back to Tarrant County families, thanks to Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Centers operated by United Way of Tarrant County and its partners. For the third consecutive year, the VITA centers increased the number of free tax returns filed, total refund dollars and Earned Income Tax Credits claimed to help low-income working families and the local economy.
Trained volunteers at 14 sites in Fort Worth, Arlington, Grapevine and North Richland Hills helped families earning less than $53,000 to prepare and file their tax returns and claim all eligible tax credits. The free centers were part of United Way’s Earn Well initiative to help low-income working families on the path to financial stability. United Way’s lead VITA partners were Catholic Charities, City of Fort Worth and Foundation Communities.
A total of 7,033 returns were filed yielding $11,477,045 in refunds, up from 5,198 returns and $10,027,433 last year. Of this year’s amount, $5,164,314 was Earned Income Tax Credits, up 25 percent from the $4.14 million in EITC claims filed at the centers last year.
In addition, 511 people agreed either to put part of their income tax return in a savings account or buy a savings bond, up from 316 people last year. Families were 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. Sue Matkin, United Way Community Development Vice President, said tax refunds provide one of the few opportunities to save money for many families who are barely making ends meet.
United Way’s 2-1-1 information and referral service staff answered 6,545 calls from people inquiring about volunteer income tax assistance, compared to more than 6,300 calls last year.
237 VITA volunteers contributed 6,237 hours serving as tax preparers, intake specialists, interpreters and greeters to help the families who came to receive help filing their taxes. Their volunteer service to the community had a value of $153,804, according to the national organization Independent Sector. Larry Klos of Fort Worth (pictured at right) volunteered the most hours this year. He helped prepare taxes for 225 hours.
Volunteers came from 6 companies and 7 area colleges and universities. The University of Texas at Arlington logged 568 hours; the most volunteer hours accumulated by a participating educational institution.
“We thank all of our volunteers and partners who helped make this tax return season a success,” said Sue, “and also thank the thousands of families who put their trust in the VITA centers.” For more information about United Way’s EARN WELL financial stability initiative, go to unitedwaytarrant.org/EARNWELL.