Valley of the Sun United Way’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program helped hardworking West Valley taxpayers to receive $1.8 million in refunds this tax season.
This year, United Way and its partners and volunteers assisted about 1,340 hardworking taxpayers in filing 1,080 tax returns and claiming $1.8 million in tax refunds at eight West Valley locations. That’s a 60 percent increase in tax refunds to community members from the 2012 tax season.
“We adjusted hours to reach more hardworking local taxpayers,” said Charlie Boyce, Vice President of Community Impact for Valley of the Sun United Way. “Community members tell us they are using their refunds to take steps toward becoming more financially independent. They’re paying for basic vital bills including utilities, food and housing, and for resources that improve their lives including creating savings accounts and enrolling in education courses to get ahead.”
More than half of those taxpayers reported that they did not know about the Earned Income Tax Credit prior to coming to a United Way VITA site. Of the total refunds, nearly $775,000 were EITC credits returning to West Valley families and taxpayers. EITC is an important tool to provide working families and individuals tax refunds they’ve already paid in, to build savings, reduce debt and improve financial independence.
“Experts say that, nationally, four of five taxpayers receive their Earned Income Tax Credit. Our goal is to make that five of five in Maricopa County,” Boyce said.
Rhiannon Truog was among the more than 70 trained and IRS certified volunteers who dedicated more than 3,000 hours of volunteer time to transform community lives. “It really hit home when one taxpayer told me she was paying medical bills to stabilize her finances, and another was able to save for any emergencies or future needs,” said Truog, who volunteered at one of two Avondale sites.
“This refund is going to change our family’s lives this year,” said Patricia Olivas, who had her taxes prepared at an Avondale site. “I bought a reliable car for work, paid off credit card bills, and have really opened the door to a better monthly budget for my family.”
This is United Way’s third year working with the IRS, and partners in the business, education and non-profit sectors, to close a gap in Volunteer Income Tax Assistance access for West Valley residents.
For information about volunteering for the 2014 tax season, contact Judy DeMass at firstname.lastname@example.org. Training is provided and volunteer hours and locations is flexible.
About Valley of the Sun United Way
Valley of the Sun United Way works to ensure children and youth succeed, end hunger and homelessness and increase the financial stability of individuals and families in Maricopa County. Through programs such as Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and financial coaching, United Way is committed to increasing the financial independence throughout our community. For more information, visit www.vsuw.org.