It is the time of year that we start looking for volunteers for our VITA program. VITA, or Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, provides free tax preparation help to qualifying community members. This program is staffed almost exclusively by volunteers who work diligently to provide a better life for low- and medium-income families.

VITA volunteers are incredibly dedicated to serving the community. Many of them come from educational and professional backgrounds that are not related to finance, and they willingly give their time to learn how to prepare tax returns because they want to make sure that everyone in our community can find financial stability during tax season.

I think one group of people who is perfect for this volunteer opportunity is the retirees and empty nesters in our community. These individuals have life experience that provides them with empathy and compassion. It also gives them the skills to learn the basics of being a VITA volunteer. There is no need to be an expert in accounting or tax preparation.

The retirees in our community also have flexible schedules that allow them to help at our various VITA clinics and be available to serve where needed. They have also developed leadership skills to allow them to serve as clinic managers who oversee other VITA volunteers and coordinate the logistics of the VITA clinics. We have found that these volunteers are truly indispensable to carrying out the VITA program.

LaMar Barrington, one of our volunteers, said, “I think the thing I enjoy most about volunteering with VITA is knowing that it really does make a difference to the people we are serving. Many of them are trying to get by on very modest incomes, so they really don’t have $150 to $250 to pay someone else to do their taxes. Many of the clients have shared with me very interesting stories about the challenges in their lives and the things they have overcome and have expressed great appreciation for the service provided by VITA.”

Many of you may be wondering how a program that helps low-income families get the most out of their tax refund can make an impact on our community as a whole.

One of the best ways to help the community is to put money back in the pockets of families who are struggling to make ends meet, and our VITA volunteers do just that by helping taxpayers claim all of their tax credits and complete accurate tax returns at no cost.

Each year, these volunteers help community members claim between $4.5 and $5 million in tax refund dollars. These refunds are used to increase savings, pay down loans, cover home and transportation costs and buy groceries.

Approximately $1 million of those refunds come from the Earned Income Tax Credit, which puts money back in the refunds of working families and is one of the most effective anti-poverty measures in our tax code. According to the IRS, “the EITC lifted about 5.7 million people out of poverty, including about 3 million children. The number of children [living in poverty] would have been more than one-quarter higher without the EITC.”

Helping families in Utah County helps the whole community.

If you are interested in joining this great team of volunteers and helping families next tax season, please call 801-374-2588.