Our church became an official IRS VITA(Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) location for this tax year. Doing so was a part of Christian Financial Services ministry, a second phase beyond the ATM service we are providing. The program involves providing volunteer tax preparers who have been approved through testing and certification, a site coordinator, and an intake host each day we are open. VITA is free and available for anyone with an income of $50,000 and below. The taxes are prepared online, triggering a refund check (if there is one) about 10 days later.
We really weren’t sure what all to expect with the tax preparation, and it has proven to be a lot of work. Since every person’s W-2 and financial situation is different, there is no way to predict the amount of time per return. There is also the challenge of making sure people are bringing all the documents and items (must have SS card, DL or photo ID, W-2, etc.) necessary to begin their return. One man showed up recently with no SS card, but showed us where he had it tattooed on his arm. He wasn’t going to forget it. And neither will we.
Last week, in the midst of wondering if we were making any difference with VITA, I heard from a man who came by to ask for help. He had been to one of the storefront tax help locations (aka predatory lenders) promising him an instant return (aka high interest loan), leaving frustrated about the amount of his return. I’ve known him for several years, grateful for his new job and apartment after a long period of homelessness. He brought me the receipt from the tax service, showing a $150 refund. He was excited until he saw that they had taken $120 of it for “Tax Preparer” and $29 for their “Handling Fee.” Outrageous! It was too late for us to do help him with VITA, but this reminds me of the great need for it in our community. It reminds me of why we do what we do with Christian Financial Services. It’s worth the effort.
Interested in volunteering to help with VITA?