VITA programs prepares nearly $4M in tax returns

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The United  Way of Lee, Hendry, and Glades announced  that the total dollars returned to lower to middle income taxpayers in our community through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program was $3,950,533. The announcement was made recently at a reception honoring the 115 volunteers who helped with the VITA program.

United Way of Lee, Hendry, and Glades provides free tax preparation services for hard-working people and their families.  The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) was responsible for over 2,200 free and confidential tax returns that were filed between January and April 15th, 2014. The total of $3,950,000 in refunds was more than $1 million higher than the VITA program submitted last year.  The first year of VITA’s operation, 2008, the program generated $277,000 in refunds.

The local VITA program has also expanded from 8 preparation sites to 12, making it easier for people to access the free program.  In addition to the sites in Hendry and Glades Counties, Charlotte and Collier County had sites and the United Way of Charlotte and United Way of Collier partnered with United Way of Lee, Hendry and Glades to make the program available to more communities.

VITA is making a difference in the lives of many people in our community. One couple who recently used VITA was told they were getting an $8,000 refund.  The wife started crying and told the preparer she had an operation and her medical bills prevented them from paying their mortgage. Now they can catch up their mortgage and pay their medical bills.

At the thank you event for VITA volunteers, Cliff Smith, President of the United Way of Lee, Hendry, and Glades said, “This is the sixth year for our VITA program, and it has grown substantially each year since its beginning in 2008. That year $277,000 in refunds were generated through VITA. We are excited to announce that the VITA program has grown to over $3.9 million in returns for lower to middle income taxpayers at a time when many are still struggling to meet living expenses. This is amazing growth!

A prime goal of the free service is to help tax payers who qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and other similar credits to receive them.  A large number of taxpayers who could qualify for the EITC do not claim the credit.

The United Way of Lee, Hendry, and Glades raises funds for health and human service organizations in our community, and promotes partnerships and collaborations among agencies, focusing on issues and solutions to improve lives.

The United Way of Lee, Hendry and Glades has been “the way the community cares” since it was established in 1957.  For more information please call United Way of Lee, Hendry and Glades at (239) 433-2000 or visit www.unitedwaylee.org.