Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), a free tax preparation program, saved local residents over $517,000 in tax preparation fees. This year, trained volunteers prepared over 3,500 tax returns at 14 locations in New Haven, West Haven, and Woodbridge helping residents claim over $5.8 million in tax refunds.
VITA, part of a nationwide initiative that has been serving Greater New Haven residents for more than a decade, provides free federal and state tax preparation to households earning less than $50,000 per year. The free tax centers run by the organizations that participate in the Greater New Haven VITA Coalition were located at community centers, senior centers, libraries, nonprofit organizations, churches and schools.
VITA gets critical money into households that need it and who have earned it without family members paying fees or falling prey to predatory lending. When a family has the money to meet their basic needs, and invest in their future and our community, we all win.
United Way is committed to helping close the income gap by working with partners to create a region where everyone has the opportunity to make progress towards their financial goals and become more independent. United Way hosted a reception and recognition ceremony May 9th for more than 65 volunteers and community members in celebration of the 2012 VITA program.
“This work is at the core of what we do to mobilize community – in this case volunteers – to be a part of a community-wide effort to change people’s lives. We are proud to support this effort and the great organizations and volunteers who make it happen,” said Amy Casavina Hall, senior director of Income and Health Initiatives. “Being a part of the VITA Coalition is one way that we help families become financially stable and we could not do it without the outstanding support of volunteers.”
“VITA is more than just free tax preparation,” said James Horan, executive director of the Connecticut Association for Human Services (CAHS), an organization that partners with local groups to coordinate the VITA campaign in Greater New Haven. “It ensures that working families have access to valuable tax credits without having to pay high fees. In addition, VITA connects families to other free services that provide them with the tools to leverage those tax refunds into long-lasting financial stability.”
Volunteers, staff from local nonprofit organizations, funders, the Internal Revenue Service, and other community members celebrated the service of over 130 local volunteers who made this year’s free tax campaign possible. “Our volunteers keep the VITA program going,” said Ron Peruzzi of the IRS. “Before these volunteers prepare their first tax return, they undergo rigorous training and testing to become IRS-certified, enabling them to provide high-quality service to our clients.” He added, “Many of our volunteers have full-time jobs, but somehow still find the time to volunteer. Their service and dedication have truly made a difference in the lives of working families.”
To thank them for their service, the volunteers enjoyed catered hors d'oeuvres and received official recognition certificates from the IRS, along with appreciation gifts from CAHS. Organizations that hosted VITA sites this year include: Believe In Me Empowerment Corp., City of New Haven Community Services Administration, SAGA Support Services, Community Action Agency of New Haven, Dixwell-Yale Community Learning Center; Emanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church; Gateway Community College, JUNTA for Progressive Action, New Haven Free Public Library, New Life Corp., Spanish American Merchants Association, STRIVE-New Haven, Yale Hunger and Homelessness Project and Yale-New Haven Hospital.
This year’s VITA campaign was made possible through the generous support of the following funders: Internal Revenue Service, United Way of Greater New Haven, Wells Fargo, Citi Foundation, Webster Bank, Annie E. Casey Foundation, United Illuminating, and the Meriden Foundation.