This tax season, United Way of Summit County’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program helped local families claim a total of $1,271,569 in tax refunds. The program, which provides Summit County residents with free tax preparation services, was launched in January of this year.
The VITA program supports 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. 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. Research has shown that the EITC encourages work, reduces poverty and leads to long-term gains in child health and academic success.
During the 2018 tax season, United Way’s VITA program completed 894 returns, with an average refund of $1,422 – more than twice the mean monthly cost of rent in Akron. The money claimed by these working families can then be spent within their communities, helping to boost the local economy.
The success of the VITA program in its first few months is due in large part to the hard work of its volunteers. 57 volunteers served a total of 1,336 hours between January and April of this year. Though the 2018 tax season is over, VITA volunteers will continue to offer year-round help to clients looking to file back taxes at the Financial Empowerment Center at 1060 Kenmore Blvd. in Akron.
“What makes VITA such a valuable, impactful program is that the results can be felt almost immediately,” said Jim Mullen, president and CEO of United Way of Summit County. “Families can use their refunds to start building financial security right away – whether that means taking care of their daily expenses, paying down debt or saving for the future.”