June 4, 2021 — VITA is one of United Way of Racine County’s most utilized services, completing returns for hundreds of clients every year. Despite COVID-19's impact on VITA's 2020 services, United Way was able to pivot and provide a completely virtual VITA program in time for the 2021 tax season. As 2021’s tax season drew to a close on the extended tax deadline of May 17, VITA’s busy staff and volunteers were able to congratulate themselves on a successful return to services. By the tax season’s conclusion, VITA had filed 448 federal tax returns, returning $863,635 to its clients and the Racine County community. At an average charge of $200 per return through paid services, VITA saved local clients $89,600 in preparation and filing fees this year — and nearly $575,000 in its lifespan.
VITA is such a critical service because it ensures that low- to moderate-income households not only don’t have to pay for their refunds — which are often the largest paychecks they see all year — but also because it ensures each filer receives every single tax credit they’re entitled to. The EITC — Earned Income Tax Credit — is one such credit, which rewards the lower-wage workers in our community with up to $6,728. This provides a much-needed source of extra financial stabilization that many households use to ensure they can buy groceries, pay rent, mend cars, maintain a savings account and tend other needs. This year’s refunds included more than $106,000 in federal EITC and $11,000 in state EITC.
This program does more than provide free tax preparation and filing to Racine County’s low- to moderate-income households. It also provides a welcomed community service outlet for Racine County’s most scrupulous volunteers. VITA is largely volunteer-based, relying on those generously donating their time to serve at several sites around Racine County each year. A portion of the volunteers are students of Case High School whose service also provides them with career training. Since VITA kicked off in 2017, volunteers have donated more than 5,300 hours to serve its clients.
To date, VITA has filed nearly 3,000 returns totaling more than $4,500,000 in state and federal refunds. Although the tax filing deadline was May 17, VITA will continue to offer its facilitated self-assistance filing tool until October 15, and it will provide after-season assistance through GetYourRefund from June 1 through July 23. Assistance and filing through GetYourRefund is available to taxpayers earning $66,000 or less, and is not able to handle Married Filing Separate returns or those that contain rental income. The facilitated self-assistance tool does not support state-only filing but otherwise has no income or form restrictions. These services and more information about volunteering — and the program in general — are available at UnitedWayRacine.org/VITA.