Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) Aims to Help Families Struggling to Make Ends Meet
Members of the Greater Bridgeport Family Economic Security Coalition, elected government officials, coordinated by the Connecticut Association for Human Services (CAHS) and Internal Revenue Service have kicked-off the start of the 2019 tax season. VITA is a program sponsored by the IRS, where trained volunteers prepare and file state and federal returns for low- and moderate-income families for free. Families who generally had an income of $55,000 or less in 2018 may qualify for additional tax credits.
This year’s VITA campaign is made possible with support from the United Way of Coastal Fairfield County, Citi Community Development, Fairfield County’s Community Foundation and Near & Far Aid.
Last year, IRS-certified preparers in Bridgeport and surrounding areas prepared 3,422 tax returns, returning $5,904,289 in state and federal refunds to local families including $2,006,347 in federal Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) which may have otherwise gone unclaimed. The Connecticut EITC provides an additional credit for working families which is 23% of the federal EITC. This tax credit helps low- and moderate-income working families with children have more money for monthly bills; to pay off debt and to save for emergencies.
The IRS wants to remind taxpayers that the PATH Act law requires the IRS to hold refunds claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) until February 15. In addition, the IRS wants taxpayers to be aware it will take several days for these refunds to be released and processed through financial institutions. Factoring in weekends and the President’s Day holiday, the IRS cautions that many affected taxpayers may not have access to their refunds until the week of February 27.
“We are pleased to be able to offer families and individuals who qualify, free tax preparation and filing,” said Rob Blakey, CFO & Interim Chief Executive Officer of CAHS, an organization that helps to coordinate the VITA campaign across the state. “This is an important service and offers a significant savings to those who are challenged by the extra expense of tax season. In addition to free tax services, CAHS also offers educational programs that help build long-lasting financial stability.”
“VITA provides much needed free tax advice and guidance to people who cannot afford tax accountants or are confused by our complex tax rules. Too many people fail to receive refunds or the earned income tax credit that are owed to them- leaving on the table billions of often critical hard earned dollars,” stated U.S. Senator, Richard Blumenthal.
“For eligible workers, the Earned Income Tax Credit provides a vital cash infusion that can be used to pay down debt or build savings. When you take into account that more than half of Bridgeport residents (54%) lack the savings to recover from an emergency expense, these dollars can make a huge difference for a household's financial resiliency,” said Gregory Schiefelbein, Director, New York Tri-State Market, Citi Community Development. “This year at tax time, our support for free tax preparation for eligible people and Earned Income Tax Credit awareness in Connecticut aims to help ensure that more households can access the full value of the tax credits they have earned and help boost their long-term financial stability.”
Residents can call 2-1-1 or visit www.211ct.org, the United Way’s free information hotline to find out more information or to locate the closest VITA site. For more information about federal or state EITC eligibility, residents can visit www.irs.gov or www.ct.gov/drs/eitc.
“United Way recognizes that many of our neighbors struggle to make ends meet. They are challenged to pay basic bills while saving for emergencies and other needs,” noted Cathy DeCesare, Senior Vice President, United Way of Coastal Fairfield County. Nearly 1 in 4 families are challenged to pay for food, housing, transportation, healthcare and childcare. We believe it is important to support the VITA free tax preparation program which provides the opportunity for working families to realize and secure the tax credits and refunds they are entitled to. In addition those who earned $66,000 or less in 2018 may choose to use MyFreeTaxes.com a free online tax preparation website offered by United Way. The site provides filers with assistance through email and online chat and can be used on a mobile device. This is a great tool for students and new graduates to manage their taxes”
“We are grateful to have programs like VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) that support the needs of Bridgeport residents who can take advantage of financial services that may earn them and their families a much needed tax refund,” stated Mayor Ganim. “VITA also connects our residents to invaluable community resources that they may not otherwise make use of, for instance VITA is available at various community services agencies in Bridgeport such as ABCD and Burroughs Community Center.”
To help families trying to save their tax refund dollars for a rainy day or unforeseen expenses, CAHS encourages income tax filers at VITA sites to direct deposit their federal and state refunds into both checking and savings accounts.
“HCC students have been volunteering in the VITA program for over 13 years. It has been our pleasure to host the VITA kick-off, an inspiring event for both students and community members. Over the years, students have volunteered in various VITA sites in Bridgeport, enhancing and enriching their education, allowing them to fulfill a community need. Students continue to be grateful for this opportunity” stated Pamela Pirog, Chairperson, Business Administration Department, and Professor of Accounting & Entrepreneurship at Housatonic Community College.
To find a VITA location call 2-1-1 from anywhere in Connecticut.
For more information about VITA locations or what to bring to a VITA appointment visit http://www.unitedwaycfc.org/vita