In 2016, more than $2 billion returned to local communities thanks to the work of nearly 55,000 IRS-certified tax assistance volunteers throughout the country. On January 29, United Way of Summit County will join this national movement by launching its own Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program to provide free tax preparation services to hundreds of low- and moderate-income working individuals and families in Summit County.
From January 29 to April 17, more than 80 United Way-trained and IRS-certified volunteers will help working families prepare tax returns in the City of Akron’s first Financial Empowerment Center, created in partnership with United Way and located at 1060 Kenmore Blvd. Those interested in scheduling a one-on-one tax prep appointment should call 2-1-1.
United Way will also host Super Tax Saturdays at the Financial Empowerment Center on March 10, March 24, and April 7. These events will not require appointments and will include family-friendly activities and resources in addition to tax preparation services.
In addition to offering tax prep appointments at the Financial Empowerment Center in Kenmore, United Way offers on-site VITA services to companies located in Summit County. This year, the nonprofit has worked with a number of local businesses and organizations to provide VITA services for employees at several locations across Akron and Summit County during the 2018 tax season. United Way hopes to expand this mobile VITA service to more businesses and locations in the future.
The VITA program will support United Way’s Bold Goal 3 – to financially empower 11,000 individuals by 2025. For many households nationwide, tax refunds are the single largest income supplement they receive in a year. The average federal tax refund for an individual is approximately $2,500 – enough to pay the average person’s electricity bills for over 2 years and equivalent to the median cost of rent for approximately 4 months.
In particular, United Way is working to help more working families claim 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. In addition to being a financial boost for working people, the EITC boosts the local economy. Research has shown that the EITC encourages work, reduces poverty and leads to long-term gains in child health and academic success.
“VITA is an incredibly impactful program, and we are very proud to be offering this service to families in our community,” said Jim Mullen, president and CEO of United Way of Summit County. “It provides a tangible benefit for local residents, who will have more money to cover child care expenses and transportation costs, pay bills, purchase household necessities and save for the future. It also helps businesses, who will benefit from having more financially secure employees. And what’s good for local families and businesses is very good for the economy of Greater Akron.”
For more information on United Way’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, visit www.uwsummit.org/vita.