Over the last 11 years, with the assistance of hundreds of volunteers from the community and collaboration with our partner organizations, our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program has assisted more than 5,000 Adams County individuals and families.
The program has resulted in more than $8 million being returned in federal and state refunds to the community. It is estimated that about 80 percent of refunds are then spent locally, which generates local sales, wages, and Jobs, ultimately boosting the local economy right here in Adams County.
VITA provides tax preparation services to low- and moderate-income individuals and families, persons with disabilities, the elderly and limited English-speaking taxpayers.
Without the VITA program they would be paying $200-$300 for basic tax return filing and not getting the personal attention including financial and tax planning advice offered by the VITA program.
If they self-prepare their returns, they often miss out on tax credits available to working people including the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credits, and assistance to the elderly or disabled in the form of Real Estate Tax Rebates. Partners in providing this service include the Internal Revenue Service, Manos United Hispanic-American Center, Adams County Housing Authority, and Harrisburg Area Community College.
Despite the challenges of learning and applying a substantially revised tax law this year, we increased not only the number but also the quality of the returns prepared.
Over 500 tax returns were prepared and filed by trained, IRS certified volunteers. Tax preparation services were provided at HACC on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, at the United Way Office on Saturday mornings and at Manos United Hispanic-American Center.
Over $1 million in refunds were issued to Adams County families, and at least $100,000 in tax preparation fees were saved. During their annual review of our site quality the IRS rated us at 100 percent in every category. We added a new service to prepare Rent Rebate Claims for elderly and disabled residents of public housing. We visited six housing locations and prepared over 150 rebate claims resulting in refunds of approximately $40,000 for residents.
This effort was made possible by a great group of volunteers who gave over 1,200 hours of their personal time. Many thanks to Bob Almquist, Bill Berry, Jim Calder, Andrea Costello, Amelia Contreras (site coordinator), Vickie Corbett (coalition lead), Mary Diner, Jeremy Gaskof, James Hicks, Joe Heltzel, Lupita Herrera, Val Hoski, Mike Jackman (site coordinator), Stu Kravits, Rosalinda Lopez, Pat McCourt, Isidro Martinez, Erin Messinger, R.C. Miessler, Graciela Peña and Karen Smith
More volunteers are needed for next tax season. VITA is a great opportunity to learn a new skill and serve your community at the same time. Free classroom and online training in both tax law, and software usage will be available later this year. To volunteer call Erin Messinger, volunteer coordinator, today at (717) 334-5809.