Joanna Ain & CAITLIN ARENAS MARTINEZ | MARCH 5 2019
Do you know what VITA is? No, it’s not a new gummy vitamin Or a high-end blender.
It’s a free tax filing program – fueled by thousands, helping millions get billions back. And it’s probably helping someone in your community right now.
Volunteers at 3,700 VITA sites in all 50 states are helping low- and moderate-income people (earning $55,000 or less) file their tax returns. Many of these filers are disabled, or don’t speak much English. In 2018, VITA volunteers prepared 1.3 million tax returns with a 93 percent accuracy rate, one of the highest in the industry, helping taxpayers get $1.9 billion back in refunds.
So help us celebrate VITA Awareness Day today! (cue applause here)
Although it’s run by the IRS, VITA is a public-private partnership that trains and certifies volunteers to help people file taxes. Volunteers also make sure people claim tax credits for which they’re eligible, including the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit. These refundable credits are helping people meet basic needs – like rent, food and getting to and from work – and strengthening their financial stability by reducing debt and increasing savings.
But more people qualify for these tax credits than are claiming them. One in five eligible workers are not getting tax credits they deserve, according to the IRS. That’s a gap the VITA program is trying to close.
VITA has been working successfully for 50 years. Because it has broad bipartisan support, Congress recently increased its funding by 20 percent to $18 million. That’s a move in the right direction – and we’re grateful to our elected officials for doing right by working Americans with VITA support.
But there is more to do.
VITA should be a permanent program. And Congress should invest more in working Americans and our communities. United Way Worldwide and Prosperity Now are advocating for Congress to increase federal funding to $30 million, which would let hundreds of thousands more people get the tax refunds they deserve.
Please help us spread the word! There are three ways you can make your voice heard:
1. Thank your member of Congress for supporting VITA in the latest funding package.
2. Call on Congress to make VITA permanent and shore up investments in the program. #VITAWorks
3. Have a story about an EITC or CTC recipient? Share it with us!
About the authors
Joanna Ain is a Senior Policy Manager at Prosperity Now, focusing on tax policy, emergency savings, children’s savings accounts and VITA (the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program). She is currently a proud VITA volunteer in Washington, D.C.
Caitlin Arenas Martinez is a Director of Public Policy and Advocacy at United Way Worldwide, where she advocates for financial stability public policies. In addition to supporting a robust grassroots advocacy campaign, she helps to build the capacity of local and state United Ways to engage in advocacy.