Over $23 million in tax refunds were returned to local families, thanks to the Regional Volunteer Tax Assistance Collaborative which provided free tax preparation services and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) outreach. Collaborative partners include United Way of Greater Cincinnati, Internal Revenue Service, AARP, and the Ohio Benefit Bank.
More than 19,700 returns were prepared for local families at 88 sites across Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky and Southeast Indiana.
“The Regional Volunteer Tax Assistance Collaborative is a tremendous way to help to families struggling to make ends meet,” says Lucy Crane, Community Impact Director, United Way of Greater Cincinnati. “Thousands of local families and individuals are more financially sound, thanks to this service. The EITC is our nation’s largest anti-poverty tool. It reduces the tax burden on low-wage workers, supplements wages, reduces income inequality and helps families build assets."
No better return on investment for community
Volunteers from around the region helped hardworking, low-income families file their income taxes, receive refunds due to withholding, and determine whether they qualified for EITC and other tax credits that return more money to taxpayers. Volunteers saved individuals and families an average of $200 per return in tax preparation costs.
Volunteers say the work is very worthwhile: As one Butler County volunteer said: “I continue to volunteer because I can't imagine a better return on investment to my community in terms of straight money for time. For a modest investment of my time, I'm personally responsible for returning thousands of dollars to my neighbors and having a demonstrable impact on their lives. I've given time to other organizations in the city to paint houses, plant trees, pick up trash, etc., and none have provided as much one-on-one interaction with as many people who were so happy and relieved to have help.”
Local companies which supported the effort by volunteering, hosting and adopting tax preparation sites:
Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, the University of Cincinnati and Miami University sponsored self-file sites on their campuses. Macy’s and IRS processing center volunteers ran sites to assist their employees.
Not including training time, altogether these companies and their employees donated more than 2,000 volunteer hours.
“Our free tax prep sites are vital for those in the community who can’t afford professional tax services,” said Crane. “In addition to individual volunteers, we are grateful for the corporate groups provided by EY, GE, Kroger, Fifth Third, Park National and Huntington Bank whose employees donated countless hours to help file returns at community sites.”
Nonprofit organizations leading the work included Legal Aid, Center for Great Neighborhoods, Urban League, Santa Maria, Brighton Center and four Community Action Agencies in Hamilton, Butler and Clermont Counties and in Northern Kentucky.
Since United Way began participating in the EITC regional initiative, the collaborative has been instrumental in returning over $120 million to the community.
This fall, United Way and its partners will begin recruiting and training volunteers for the 2015 tax season.