Over $20 million in tax refunds were returned to local families in the Greater Cincinnati region, thanks to United Way of Greater Cincinnati’s Regional Volunteer Tax Assistance Collaborative. Nearly 17,000 federal tax returns have been prepared in 2017 for local families at sites across Southwest Ohio, Northern Kentucky and Southeast Indiana. Collaborative partners include United Way of Greater Cincinnati, AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program, the Ohio Benefit Bank and the Internal Revenue Service.
Within the collaborative, United Way is the local organizing partner for the national Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, whose 500 trained, certified VITA volunteers help individuals and families file federal and state income tax returns. MyFreeTaxes, a free online program is also offered for tax filers to prepare their own returns. Free tax preparation saved individuals and families an average of $273 in tax preparation costs per return while helping them receive refunds from tax withholding or the refundable the Earned Income Credit (EITC).
“Thousands of local families 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,” said Lucy Crane, Community Impact Director, United Way of Greater Cincinnati.
Over the thirteen-week tax season, volunteers have personally seen how VITA, the EITC and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) help families and fight poverty. At the year end volunteer celebration, volunteers urged Senators to continue federal funding for the VITA program and these critical tax credits.
“This was my first year as a volunteer for VITA, and I met many people (my neighbors) who needed the EITC and CTC. Please keep them!”
“I helped a woman whose husband had been in early stages of dementia, but passed away suddenly due to an accident. My dad had dementia and passed away a couple years ago. I know that me figuring out death and taxes was a great help to my mom. I'm glad that I could offer the same support for a VITA client.”
"I had a client who had their taxes done at a paid site the year before and paid over $400. Because of their EITC amount, they were excited that they could use all their return this year to help purchase a new car."
"It's hands-on volunteering with immediate payback. Not only does the VITA program provide a valuable and needed service, there is also an opportunity to share advice and counsel with clients which may help them to get on more stable financial footing."
corporate and nonprofit partners
Many local companies supported the effort by volunteering, hosting and adopting tax preparation sites. Accounting firm EY recruited corporate volunteers and provided extensive training and support. GE Aviation and Kroger hosted tax sites, and Fifth Third, Park National, Union Savings and Huntington Banks provided dedicated groups of volunteers. Macy’s and IRS Cincinnati Service Center volunteers ran closed sites to assist their co-workers.
Non-profit organizations sponsoring sites include Brighton Center; Center for Great Neighborhoods; four Community Action Agencies, Healing Center; Price Hill Will and Santa Maria Community Services. Universities participating included Gateway Community and Technical College, Xavier, University of Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky University and Thomas More college. Funders for the initiative include United Way of Greater Cincinnati, United Way Worldwide, H&R Block, First Financial Bank, Internal Revenue Service, Key Bank, PNC Bank, Republic Bank, and SC Ministry Foundation.
Tax preparation services will continue over the summer and fall for individuals needing to file after the tax deadline.
For more information regarding United Way's Regional Volunteer Tax Assistance Collaborative, please contact Rina Saperstein at email@example.com.