As we head into the new year and tax season, United Way of Santa Barbara County (UWSBC) is still seeking volunteers for its community tax assistance centers through their United for Financial Empowerment Partnership. Trained, experienced, IRS-certified volunteers will provide income tax return preparation and E-Filing to help residents receive their tax refunds at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) at locations throughout the county. The centers will be open during evening, day and weekend hours, starting February 1 through April 15, to accommodate as many residents as possible.
“We are looking forward to enlisting and training qualified English and Spanish-speaking volunteers to serve as tax preparers, reviewers, interpreters, and greeters. This special group of 125 individuals perform a vital and much-appreciated service for our community,” says Steve Ortiz, UWSBC President & CEO. “With VITA, individuals and families can get the support they need to understand their finances and prepare and file their taxes with confidence and ease. This path to success is always free of charge.”
VITA volunteer training begins on Saturday, January 4 and continues during the month on the 11th 18th and 25th. Training will be at the United Way office from 9am-1pm. online independent training is also available. Not all volunteer positions need IRS certification. Greeters do not need certification, but for this position, bilingual, Spanish speakers are desired.
A key part of the work volunteers do is to identify working families who will benefit from the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). According to the IRS, “The Earned Income Tax Credit, EITC or EIC, is a benefit for working people with low to moderate income. To qualify, you must meet certain requirements and file a tax return, even if you do not owe any tax or are not required to file. EITC reduces the amount of tax you owe and may give you a refund.” In California, for example, a person with no children and an income up to $30,000 will get a CalEITC of up to $240 and an IRS EITC up to $529. In comparison, a family with three or more children earning the same amount will receive a CalEITC up to $2,982 and an IRS EITC up to $6,557. This program allows more working Californians – adults ages 18-24 without dependents, and older adults ages 65+ without dependents – eligibility for this credit. Even if you earned income from self-employment, you may qualify for the credit. Both 1099 filers and cash earners qualify.
All you need to do to take advantage of this credit is to file your state and federal tax returns. Search for a free tax preparation site, with IRS-certified tax preparers, or file online by visiting http://www.unitedwaysb.org/vita.
In 2019, VITA volunteers in Santa Barbara County helped submit 3,030 tax returns, resulting in $2,642,130 in refunds with an estimated savings of $264,213 in tax preparation.
Tax preparation services will be available at six VITA sites in the Santa Barbara and Goleta area beginning February 1 through April 15. For more information, please visit http://www.unitedwaysb.org/vita.