CAP Services’ Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) served 658 households in its service area this past tax season. Volunteers helped eligible taxpayers claim $1.2 million in state and federal tax refunds, a 20% increase from last year’s total.
“The dedication of our volunteers is really remarkable, going far beyond just a weekly commitment,” said Erin Olson, Project Development Coordinator. “The VITA program requires a combination of technical knowledge and interpersonal skills, not to mention a great deal of flexibility in addressing each unique tax situation.”
A total of 25 VITA volunteer tax preparers assisted 277 households in Portage County, 210 in Waushara County, and 161 in Waupaca County. Ten additional returns were submitted online through a new self-file option on CAP Services’ website, made possible through MyFreeTaxes.com.
The VITA program helps individuals and families maximize their tax returns and minimize fees. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation and inform taxpayers about special tax credits for which they may qualify, such as the Child Tax Credit, Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled, and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
“The EITC continues to be one of the most significant resources available to low-income families,” said Mary Patoka, CAP President and CEO. “Many do not claim this and other credits due to lack of information or access.”
The annual federal tax refund is the largest sum of cash many American households receive all year, often amounting to up to 20% of annual household income. In addition to helping cover basic household expenses, a family’s tax refund also offers a chance to put some money into savings.
To help families looking to save their tax refund for a rainy day or unforeseen expenses, CAP Services partnered with SaveYourRefund, an incentive-based promotion that encourages tax filers to save a portion of their refund and potentially win cash prizes. Cathy R., Plainfield, and Lori B., Hancock, who had returns prepared through VITA, won $100 prizes.