As reported by Lily Bohlke, Public News Service:
With tax season underway, Massachusetts groups are raising awareness about the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA), an IRS-sponsored program to help people file their income taxes correctly and maximize their refunds.
Community Action agencies and other groups have served more than 30,000 Massachusetts residents, helping them get more than $600 million in refunds.
Alayna Van Tassel, executive director of the Office of Economic Empowerment for the Massachusetts State Treasurer’s Office, said for many families, having free and comprehensive tax preparation services can go a long way.
“Tax refunds can really help pay for essentials, whether it’s groceries, housing or heating costs,” Van Tassel outlined. “We also work with the VITA sites to use tax time as an opportunity to talk to families about long-term financial goals, like saving for their child’s higher education.”
She added while the deadline for filing taxes is not until mid-April, it is important to reach out to a VITA site to get started as soon as possible. Friday, the Massachusetts Association for Community Action will hold an annual VITA launch event in Stockbridge.
Friday is also National Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Awareness Day, a tax credit for low-to-moderate-income working families.
Rich Sheward, director of innovative partnerships for Children’s Health Watch, said many people may not be aware of the tax credits for which they are eligible.
“VITA sites are very, very focused on making sure that households are aware of the EITC, know what they’re eligible for, and are able to claim that, and the Child Tax Credit as well,” Sheward explained.
Ancel Tejada, financial empowerment program manager at the Massachusetts Association for Community Action, noted there are more than 80 VITA sites around the state, and half are run by the state’s 21 Community Action agencies.
“VITA is a gateway into one of our services,” Tejada remarked. “But remember, when you come into a Community Action Agency, we’re looking for other ways that we’ll be able to help you and offer you wraparound services.”