In preparation for next year’s tax season, United Way of Summit County is recruiting volunteers for its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. United Way’s VITA program provides free tax preparation services for Summit County residents. Volunteer training is free, and no experience is necessary.
United Way’s VITA program advances the organization’s Bold Goal 3 – to financially empower 11,000 Summit County residents. According to a recent United Way study, 40 percent of Summit County households and 57 percent of Akron households struggle to afford Ohio’s basic cost of living. VITA, which is housed in the Akron Financial Empowerment Center, helps working residents take advantage of programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
The EITC is a refundable tax credit for low- to moderate-income working individuals and couples, particularly those with children. Research has shown that the EITC encourages work, reduces poverty and leads to long-term gains in child health and academic success. Though the average EITC comes out to $2,455, nearly 20 percent of eligible Ohioans do not claim the credit, leaving $39 million unclaimed in Ohio alone.
The money VITA clients receive in the form of a refund can help families pay down debt, put food on the table and save for the future. On average, commercial tax preparers charge $210 per return. But because VITA services are free, clients keep their entire tax refund. In 2018, VITA volunteers completed nearly 900 returns, resulting in a total savings of more than $18,000 for Summit County residents.
“There’s a real need for this kind of service, and VITA volunteers get to make an immediate difference in the lives of families in Summit County,” said Jim Mullen, president and CEO of United Way of Summit County. “By simply committing their time, each of these volunteers is bringing in thousands of dollars for our community.”
VITA volunteer training will take place in December and January, and the one-day training session is free, and lunch is provided. No prior tax preparation or financial experience is necessary, though CFPs, CPAs and licensed attorneys can receive up to 18 continuing education credits by volunteering. For more information on United Way’s VITA program, or to register as a volunteer, visit uwsummit.org/vita.