As part of its commitment to addressing key community issues, United Way of Broome County is developing strategies to positively impact the financial stability of our residents. One goal is to help more working people move towards greater economic self-sufficiency.
One of the first initiatives toward this goal is United Way’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. By offering free tax return preparation to low- and moderate- income households, the VITA program ensures that individuals and families receive all tax benefits for which they are eligible, most importantly the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC is a refundable tax credit for low- and moderate-income working taxpayers and has been recognized as the single most powerful tool to lift children out of poverty in the United States. Depending on income and number of household members, the EITC can increase a family’s annual income by as much as 50%.
The United Way of Broome County partnered with the existing Broome County Department of Social Service (DSS) and the Family Enrichment Network (FEN) VITA sites to form a regional VITA Collaborative for each tax season since 2010. The Department of Social Services has managed a very successful VITA site for a number of years, and was instrumental in providing volunteers and the IRS certified training for the volunteers for the two new United Way sites. Appointment scheduling is now streamlined by utilizing our local 2-1-1 call center for all three of the sites.
This past tax season, the United Way site assisted 732 households. Those returns reported over $1.5 million in federal and state refunds for local residents. In addition, the program saved the participants tens of thousdands of dollars in tax preparation fees.