The 2019 Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, VITA, program will kick off at the end of this month.

The free tax preparation is made available by the United Way of Central Texas and its community partners — Helping Hands Ministry of Belton, the McLane School of Business at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, Central Texas Housing Consortium, Temple College, and Fort Hood United Way.

Temple, Belton, Harker Heights and Killeen VITA sites will open the week of Jan. 29. To schedule an appointment, call the United Way of Central Texas office at 254-778-8616.

In 2018, the United Way of Central Texas VITA volunteers prepared nearly 1,000 free tax returns for Central Texans and brought in over $1.4 million in refunds and nearly $500,000 in Earned Income Tax Credits to local communities.

“Last year, VITA volunteers completed more than 900 tax returns with 99 percent accuracy return rate, which is higher than most of the for profit businesses,” Stephanie O’Banion, executive director of the United Way of Central Texas, said during a volunteer recognition event. They logged over 2,200 hours.”

VITA volunteers are IRS certified and knowledgeable in Earned Income Tax Credits providing basic income tax return services without charge, ensuring 100 percent of the tax refund goes directly to the customer.

The Earned Income Tax Credit and is broadly considered the most effective pro-work, anti-poverty tool in the country. The Earned Income Tax Credits is a refundable federal tax credit for lower income working people that encourages and rewards work, offsetting the federal payroll and income taxes, giving low to moderate-income working families a stronger possibility of financial stability.

Research suggests that Earned Income Tax Credits positively affects children and families far beyond the limited time frame during which families claim the credit, according to the United Way. In fact, studies show that the Earned Income Tax Credits improves child health and academic achievement, increasing the likelihood of college attendance and improving prospects for higher earnings when children become adults. Only those who work are eligible, allowing them to keep more of what they earn. 

When tax season arrives, VITA volunteers dedicate themselves to preparing hundreds of tax returns for Central Texas residents. Helping a family complete a tax return offers instant gratification as a volunteer.

This is the local United Way’s 11th year to provide tax assistance to the local community. Clients eligible to have their taxes prepared for free must make less than $55,000 a year. Last year, the average client income was $24,000 per year.

For information about the United Way of Central Texas, visit www.UWCT.org.