The volunteers of Tri-County United Way VITA Coalition were recognized by the IRS with honorable mention awards in two of six categories during the Virtual National Partner Recognition Ceremony held online August 5th. The IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program partners with groups across the United States to offer free e-filing opportunities in the local communities.
During the 17th year of providing free tax services in the tri county area the group of 63 volunteers were recognized in the Rural Initiative Category. Their efforts in extending services to our rural communities continue to grow each year. As the volunteer base increases along with community needs, the volunteer travel teams conduct free tax appointments at 31 locations throughout Warren, Washington and Northern Saratoga counties. Even with the 2020 filing season cut short due to COVID-19, the VITA volunteers reached 1,803 families in person, and over 300, virtually through online services, helping local families collect over $3.5 million dollars in tax refunds. While assisting taxpayers with e-filing Federal and State tax returns the certified tax preparers also provide guidance in understanding the current tax law and tax credits, help taxpayers plan for adjustments in the future, and saved these families from spending valuable dollars to a paid tax preparer.
Financial Education and Asset Building (FEAB) was the second category for which VITA Coalition volunteers received honorable mention by the IRS. Over the years this has been an evolving added benefit to the residents coming to a VITA site. Several locations have local bankers on site ready to open bank accounts to facilitate direct deposits for a quicker refund or offer more information about other banking products. Glens Falls National, TD Bank, and Great Meadow Federal Credit Union participated in the 2020 filing season.
VITA Coalition partners Cornell Cooperative Extension Warren County, Cornell Cooperative Extension Washington County, and RSVP Budget Coaching offer financial education courses. Each has a variety of individual and group learning opportunities for adults and students that are taught by an Extension Educator or trained volunteers. For the upcoming filing season the Tri-County United Way is launching a link to reliable financial information.
Congratulations to the volunteers involved in the Tri-County United Way VITA which is more than tax preparers. Greeters and appointment takers are necessary positions as well. To join the 2021 VITA team sign up at volunteer.tricountyunitedway.org