VITA Awareness Day: VITA volunteers help Montanans build financial security.

Today is VITA Awareness Day! To help us celebrate, our partner with Montana Credit Unions for Community Development highlights the impact of VITA sites in Montana.

For many folks, tax season can be a stressful time. For over a decade, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites have been trusted spaces in Montana communities where working families can go to get help in filling out their income taxes. The VITA program provides low-and moderate-income families access to free and easy tax-preparation services, and nationally, has put billions of dollars back into the pockets of hard working Americans.

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In Montana, IRS-certified volunteers in over 60 VITA sites and numerous Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) sites offer their community members a free alternative to more costly, and sometimes predatory, tax preparation services. In 2015, volunteers serving in VITA/TCE sites helped return over $16 million dollars in federal income taxes to more than 16,000 working Montanans. Because these services do not cost eligible filers a dime and have far lower error rates than self-and paid-tax preparers, tax filers are able to claim more of what they earn, which helps them better make ends meet, build financial stability, and save for the future.

VITA volunteers also help raise awareness about the federal earned income tax credit (EITC) and ensure that working Montanans claim the credit at the correct amount. Research shows that the EITC lifts millions of working families out of poverty every year, encourages single parents to work more, and improves children’s school performance and earnings later in life. But while the EITC is regarded as one of the best anti-poverty programs in history, 20 percent of eligible tax filers do not claim the credit.

Last year, VITA/TCE volunteers in Montana helped provide over $5 million to 4,000 low-income working families through the EITC. These families were able to use their refunds to get caught up on bills, pay for basic necessities, like food and utilities, and cover expenses like car repairs, which helps secure a reliable form of transportation to get to and from work.

Every year, the VITA program helps low-and moderate-income working families make the most of their refunds, which improves their financial security and supports local economies. If you haven’t filed your federal income taxes yet, you may be eligible to receive free preparation services at a local VITA site. To learn more, check out Montana Free File.

Carin McClain is the Tax Program Manager with Montana Credit Unions for Community Development (MCUCD). In her role, she recruits and manages volunteers, directs tax law trainings, helps coordinate the statewide MVP Coalition, and works to build capacity and sustainability for her program.

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