CINCINNATI – Almost $21 million in tax refunds were returned to local families, thanks to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and free tax preparation services provided by United Way of Greater Cincinnati, Internal Revenue Service Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), AARP, and the Ohio Benefit Bank.
More than 19,800 returns were prepared for local families at 126 sites across Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky and Southeast Indiana. This year’s returns represent a 9 percent increase in the number of returns over 2013.
"The EITC initiative not only helps families and individuals get more of their hard-earned money back, but it helps those folks avoid paying someone to prepare their tax returns," says Lucy Crane, community impact director, UWGC. "Thousands of local families and individuals are more financially sound, thanks to this service. The EITC initiative is an effort that helps provide a refund for people who are working hard to earn a living."
Beginning in January, 753 volunteers from around the region helped hardworking, low-income families 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.
"Taxpayers in our community are fortunate that IRS-certified volunteers donate their time and expertise to accurately prepare tax returns," says John Crawford, senior stakeholder relationship tax consultant, IRS. "The IRS is proud to support United Way of Greater Cincinnati in their VITA effort."
Local companies also supported the effort by hosting and adopting tax preparation sites, including EY, GE Aviation, The Kroger Co., Fifth Third Bank, and Park National Bank. EY recruited and trained other companies to host sites. GE Aviation hosted a site at Lincoln Heights Elementary School and Kroger hosted a site at the Houston Conference Center. Fifth Third supported the Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency and Park National Bank supported the Ohio Means Jobs of Clermont County. Not including training time, altogether the companies and their employees donated more than 900 volunteer hours.
"Filing taxes can be complicated. For those who can’t afford professional tax prep services, this could translate into important tax credits being left out or improperly filed returns that could cause long-term headaches. Our free tax prep sites are vital to the community," says Crane. "We’re so grateful for our partnerships with EY, GE, Kroger, Fifth Third, and Park National, whose employees are graciously donating their time to help families and individuals get more of their hard-earned money back."
Since United Way began participating in the EITC regional initiative, the collaborative has been instrumental in returning over $100 million to the community. The collaborative is made up of three main partners: VITA (United Way, the IRS, Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati, and Center for Great Neighborhoods of Covington) AARP and Ohio Benefit Bank.
This fall, United Way and its partners will begin recruiting and training volunteers for the 2014 tax season.
(From left) Lucy Crane, United Way of Greater Cincinnati, Annette Krochmalny, Legal Aid Society, John Crawford, IRS-SPEC Kathy Meinke, UWGC, Hardrie Diggs, Legal Aid Society, Tiffany Vitagliano, Peg Baldock, Center for Great Neighborhoods, Jennifer Bieger, United Way 211,Stephanie Stiene, Brighton Center, Kathy Schoettlekotte, IRS-SPEC, Sarah Ghee, UWGC, Lisa Crawford, IRS-SPEC