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Volunteers Helping Community With Finances

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program is a volunteer-driven effort managed by United Way of Northern Arizona. IRS certified volunteers provide free tax services to community members making less than $49,000. Each of these clients has his or her own personal story and situation, making VITA a vital program. The reason it is so important is the people it helps every year, and the impact it has on those people can extend even to the next generation.

Community members like you volunteer to warmly welcome clients to these services, match clients with the appropriate level of help and train to prepare taxes. During the 2011 tax season, 135 volunteers provided 3,375 hours of service to the program.

Clients were served at various sites in Flagstaff, Grand Canyon, Page, Tuba City, Tusayan and Williams.

In the 2011 tax season, more than $2.2 million federal income tax dollars were returned to 1,533 families and individuals. Bringing $2.2 million back into our community is similar to the creation of 75 median wage jobs.

The average adjusted gross income for our families and individuals was $20,712, with the potential to claim $5,666 Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The average family saw a return of $1,600. The typical taxpayer’s refund was equivalent to approximately four additional paychecks.

VITA, in a word, is vital. The program serves families who often have few, if any, resources. The money VITA returns to families can therefore be a real starting point for financial security. Refunds are used to make necessary purchases such as tires and shoes, help reduce and get out of debt, obtain childcare, build savings, pay for school and obtain or maintain affordable housing.

One such touching story comes from a single mother who found herself and her children at severe risk of homelessness, despite the fact that she was working. She and her family were living in a motel, which typically costs well above market rent for apartments. Spending every paycheck on motel rent meant not making nearly enough money for the down payments that are required to get into more permanent housing. This year, she heard about VITA for the first time, and with her Earned Income Tax Credit, she was able to get together the down payment for an apartment. Thanks to VITA and her own hard work, the family is no longer at risk of homelessness and is now on the path to financial independence and stable, affordable housing.
Volunteer and you can help families struggling to make ends meet and make their lives just a little easier! FBN


For more information or to sign up to volunteer, contact Sarah Benatar at United Way of Northern Arizona at 928-773-9813 or email vita@nazunitedway.org.






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