The earned income tax credit has been called one of the largest anti-poverty tools in the United States. It provides tax refunds for those who qualify — especially low- and middle-income families — of up to $5,891 for households with three or more qualifying children.
Many people don't take advantage of the tax savings offered by the credit because they don't think they qualify, they don't understand how it works or they are intimidated by government bureaucracy. For several years, an initiative called VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) has offered help to such taxpayers.
Until last year, VITA was led by the Hartford-based community development organization Co-Opportunity Inc., which went out of business in October. Now United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut has stepped forward to head the local VITA program; good for them for providing a much-needed source of vital support.
VITA, which offers free tax help to households with an annual income of less than $50,000, is no small enterprise. Last year, more than 9,400 taxpayers in central and northeastern Connecticut received a total of more than $20 million in refunds and credits, including $6.5 million in earned income tax credits.
As its name implies, volunteer workers are key to the program's success, and the United Way has put out the word that they are now needed. Those who want to help with VITA need not be accountants or financial geniuses. All that's required are familiarity with computers, a minimum time commitment of four hours a week between mid-January and mid-April, and a desire to help others. (Those helping fill out tax forms must receive IRS certification; VITA provides the training for that.)
Even the math-challenged can help out, by making appointments or helping walk-ins. Those interested in volunteering may contact Liz Buczynski at LBuczynski@unitedwayinc.org or call 860-493-1106.
Helping working families become more financially stable is a worthwhile way to give back to the community.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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