VITA Program Background: The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program has been in existence for 38 years however; within the last few years we have enlisted the assistance of external partners to host VITA sites in an effort to further reach the needs of the community, specifically low to moderate income families and individuals. Prior to this, IRS employees manned the sites, which were located in IRS offices. Methodology: At the VITA site, taxpayers' returns (specifically low to moderate-income families and individuals) are prepared free of charge and most times electronically transmitted to IRS Submission Processing Centers, where refunds are issued within 2 weeks. Community volunteers are trained by the IRS to prepare returns at sites designated by the external partner. If your credit union elects to host a VITA site, you must identify a site location, solicit volunteers and IRS will provide the necessary training and software required. How Can Financial Institutions Help: IRS continues to market the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC), both of which can generate a substantial refund. For example, for this past tax year 2006, working families, earning less than $38,438 could have been eligible for an EITC refund of up to $4,536. For 2007, eligible taxpayers earning less that $37,783 would be eligible for up to $4,717 in EITC. In years past, so much of the EITC refund went unclaimed by those taxpayers who benefited most. Reaching out to the community, disseminating and marketing the tax credits through external partners in various communities, increases chances of reaching those individuals who qualify for the credit. The VITA sites are opened from January through April, and training of volunteers is usually conducted in late December or early January. Financial institutions can elect to host VITA sites at their institution or other location. Your employees can frequent existing VITA sites and discuss services offered by your institution. In addition, if the taxpayer elects to deposit his or her EITC refund into your financial institution, low or no cost savings accounts or other transaction accounts, can be offered. By exposing a largely "unbanked" population to bank services offered, creates a whole new opportunity for those families. Financial institutions could also offer financial literacy training, budget counseling or involve those individuals in other programs offered in your community. If interested what should I do: IRS Territory offices are located throughout the United States in large metropolitan cities, and location of existing VITA sites are easily obtainable. If your financial institution is interested, the Territory Manager nearest your credit union office can be contacted so that you can discuss your credit union's involvement. We can assist you with planning and coordinating those efforts as well. It is never too early to get started planning and identifying resources. Contact the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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