Serving Monroe, Owen, and Greene Counties

Free Community Tax Service Increases Filings by 13%

June 22, 2015 -- United Way of Monroe County and the Financial Stability Alliance for South Central Indiana helped area residents file a record number of tax returns this spring. The Free Community Tax Service brought together community partners, including both Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and AARP Tax Counseling for the Elderly (AARP/TCE) programs, and nearly 200 volunteers to assist in filing 3,553 federal returns and over 2,000 state returns for residents in Monroe and Owen counties. This represents a 13% increase in filings over last tax season.

This year, the Free Community Tax Service saved low- and moderate-income residents over $925,000 in tax preparation fees. Additionally, the IRS-certified volunteers helped eligible individuals and families claim valuable credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which resulted in a refund of up to $6,143 for those who qualify.

Barry Lessow, United Way Executive Director, said, “The Free Community Tax Service provides a measurable impact on individuals and families in our area who are struggling to make ends meet. We are grateful to all the volunteers and partner organizations who came together and, according to national research, kept over 3,000 people, including 1,800 children, out of poverty. About 25% of local residents reported they are using their savings to pay for food and clothing. A quarter of clients are reducing their debt by paying bills, around 20% are putting their refund toward their rent or mortgage, and 30% are getting further on the road to financial stability by putting their refund in savings. When the Free Community Tax Service helps families, this also reduces demand on local agencies already overburdened providing essential services.”

At the eight VITA sites this year, community volunteers completed 2,415 tax returns—an 18% increase from last year—despite severe winter weather causing emergency closures several times during the filing season. MyFreeTaxes.com, a free online alternative for state and federal taxes allowed 484 taxpayers—more than twice as many as last year—to file their taxes for free from the comfort of home.

AARP Tax Counseling for the Elderly (AARP/TCE) administered sites at Twin Lakes Recreation Center and the Monroe County Public Library. Those locations had similar success, filing 517 returns and 621 returns, respectively.

Jamie Kuzemka, United Way Community Initiatives Director, said, "The Free Community Tax service was successful this year thanks to the dedication and commitment of local organizations and volunteers. Nearly 200 volunteers contributed their time and effort to help file community members' taxes. Preparations for the 2016 tax season have already started to ensure we continue to build this important program."

The Free Community Tax Service was made possible through generous grant funding from the IRS, Walmart Foundation, and AARP’s Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE). United Way of Monroe County received grants totaling $42,900 from the IRS and Walmart to implement the Free Community Tax Service. The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) grant enables the tax service to reach underserved populations and enhance volunteer training. The Walmart Foundation grant provides funding to coordinate Free Community Tax Service sites and raise awareness of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

Along with United Way of Monroe County and the Financial Stability Alliance for South Central Indiana, partners include 2-1-1, AARP, Broadview Learning Center, City of Bloomington Latino Programs and Outreach, Ellettsville Branch Library, Indiana Legal Services, Indiana University Kelley School of Business, Indiana University Maurer School of Law, Internal Revenue Service, Ivy Tech Community College, Monroe County Public Library, Owen County Public Library, South Central Community Action Program, Twin Lakes Recreation Center, Walmart, WorkOne Bloomington, and many community volunteers.

 

Do you want to strengthen earnings in our community?

Please consider donating to the United Way Earnings Priority Fund. This fund helps hard working individuals and families get ahead by increasing their job skills and income potential, providing financial education, and building economic stability and independence.

Want to learn more about additional Earnings initiatives or the other building blocks for a good life -  Education and Essentials?

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  • Born Learning
  • Financial Stability Alliance
  • Monroe Smart Start
  • Familywize Discount Prescription Card
  • Bank On Bloomington