|Volunteer Income Tax Assistance|
During tax season each year, the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga coordinates the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program in partnership with the City of Chattanooga, the IRS, and the United Way of Greater Chattanooga. Offering free tax preparation services to low- to moderate-income individuals and families, the VITA program served 6,000 individuals and families during the 2012 tax season, resulting in more than $7 million in tax refunds that were reinvested in the local economy.
The VITA program represents the essence of community partnership and volunteer spirit—and the economic empowerment mission the Urban League strives to achieve every day. The program relies on more than 50 volunteers throughout the community who work in 13 sites from February to April, helping individuals and families navigate the tax code and file their tax returns. Volunteers complete an extensive training program led by IRS staff and must pass an exam to be IRS certified to provide free tax assistance.
Since the Urban League and its partners began coordinating the VITA program in 2006, more than 14,347 tax returns have been processed, providing close to $11 million in refunds to support the individuals and families most in need of tax preparation assistance. The average income of a family served by the Chattanooga VITA partnership is approximately $20,758. The VITA program also saves Chattanooga’s consumers over half a million dollars in tax preparation fees each year. Each client served by the VITA program saves, on average, approximately $165 in filing and processing fees they would have spent with a paid preparer.
Chattanooga is one of the leaders in the growing national effort to promote the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the Child and Dependent Care Credit, and other tax credit programs for working individuals and families. Unlike many other VITA programs across the nation, the Chattanooga program has realized that processing returns is not enough. By working in a coordinated effort throughout the county to manage and advertise the program, the partnership has been able to significantly increase the number of individuals receiving free tax assistance. The partnership also focuses on enhancing opportunities for client financial literacy and education.