The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is an IRS program designed to help low and moderate-income taxpayers complete their annual tax returns for free. The program was founded in 1971 to provide local taxpayers with free tax return preparation by accounting students in an effort to provide both a valuable community service and a powerful hands-ons learning experience for the accounting students. The program grew from a small group of dedicated students to what is now a nationwide program that serves millions of taxpayers for not only area college students, but everyday people who want to improve their communities by providing a service that makes a real, tangible difference.
The Campaign for Working Families, Inc. () is part of a national effort to provide free tax preparation services that boost the number of filers eligible to claim the federal credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Child Tax Credit and Education Credit. Free tax preparation is also a means to reduce the number of taxpayers who fall prey to costly financial products and services often associated with private tax preparation services. At many of our tax sites, we also provide resource building services and public benefit sign-up assistance through partnership with other organizations.
For more than 45 years, EITC has reduced the annual tax burden for low and moderate income working families and emerged as America’s largest and most effective federal anti-poverty program. In 2017, the full EITC amount is $6,318 for eligible taxpayers with 3 or more qualifying dependents. As you can imagine, this amount in the form of a refund or savings bond can have a significant effect on the financial well-being of a low-income family, let alone the local economy.
In Philadelphia, it is estimated that over 40,000 eligible households do not claim EITC, leaving approximately $100 million in unclaimed credits from poor and working class communities and our region’s economy.
As the region’s largest VITA volunteer organization, we make it easy for you to help working families in Philadelphia and surrounding counties achieve a stronger financial standing and a brighter future. Through one-on-one interactions with individuals and families at our tax sites, you can be a part of bringing in tens of millions in refunds to the region and can count, in dollars, the value of time you donated for the families served. In 2015, 800+ volunteers logged over 18,000 hours at our 38 tax sites, bringing in over $33.2 million in tax refunds. Since our founding in 2003, our VITA volunteers have filed over 214,000 tax returns that have brought in $304 million in refunds to the Philadelphia and South Jersey economies. Very few other poverty initiatives can claim such success. In 2016, 850+ volunteers logged over 23,000 hours at our 38 tax sites, bringing in over $46.5 million in tax refunds. Since our founding in 2003, our VITA volunteers have filed over 270,581 tax returns that have brought in $350.5 million in refunds to the Philadelphia and South Jersey economies. Very few other anti-poverty initiatives can claim such success.
Although the bulk of our volunteers are needed to prepare tax returns, we also need volunteers to serve as Interviewers and Greeters. Click here to see a complete description of the volunteer roles and required training. You can also support our work by making a donation online here to help us continue this important work.
Here are a few responses:
- “Seeing the peace of mind of customers who knew their taxes were filed correctly and they would be keeping as much of their hard earned money as possible.”
- “Helping others. It’s true that helping others gives you a feeling of satisfaction.”
- “Seeing the same faces from previous years, customers and volunteers, and the reaction of families who received a refund.”
The minimum time commitment for volunteers who attend our free trainings is 24 hours, to be served between January and April.
No. You don’t need any previous experience aside from basic computer skills, essential for all positions. For all volunteer positions, we will train you in everything you need to know including the computer software.
Each tax site is staffed by a Site Management Team and experienced volunteers who will guide you as you learn how to perform in your role. Throughout the tax season you will always be surrounded by other volunteers and experienced staff to answer questions and support you as needed.
We have systems to ensure that every return is prepared correctly. After you complete your return, the site manager or designated Quality Reviewer will double check your work. In the unlikely case that a mistake is not caught, as a trained and certified volunteer, you are not held legally liable. Under the Volunteer Protection Act of 1997, all VITA volunteers are protected from liability for negligent acts they perform within the scope of their volunteer responsibilities. See IRS Publication 4961.
Each role at the tax site requires different training and IRS certification. Click here for a complete description of the roles and necessary training.