In a year full of loss, our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) advocates notched a big win: Congress funded VITA at $30 million for fiscal year 2021. This is the maximum federal funding allowed for the VITA program through the VITA Permanence Act–$5 million more than last year, when funding stood at $25 million, and more than DOUBLE the $12 million funding level of five years ago. Because of persistent advocacy efforts: calls, emails, letters, tweets and visits by our Taxpayer Opportunity Network members, congressional staff and leaders listened to stories, visited sites and ultimately voted to fully fund the program. In addition, with your advocacy, Congress passed the lookback provision which will allow tax filers to choose whether to use their 2019 or 2020 income to compute the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) on their upcoming return.
VITA sites prepare and file taxes for low- and moderate-income households so that they have access to the EITC and CTC as well as their annual refunds. In 2020, amid the COVID crisis, tens of thousands of IRS-certified volunteers, working at more than 3,700 VITA sites, prepared over one million tax returns and helped thousands with claiming the ever-so-important Economic Impact Payment (EIP), or stimulus checks, through messaging and outreach, forging local and state partnerships, and direct assistance with completing the Non-Filer Form. These sites generated more than $1.7 billion in refunds (not including stimulus check payments) to households generally earning less than $54,000 in annual income.
Here at Prosperity Now, we’re in awe of the incredible advocacy of our Taxpayer Opportunity Network whose members advocated for this increased funding while facing what was possibly their most difficult tax season thus far. VITA sites, coordinators and volunteers have worked through multiple challenges in the last year as cities went into lockdown and social distancing measures were put into place because of COVID-19. Many VITA sites quickly moved to virtual and other alternative service delivery models during the pandemic closures. In addition, because of the extended filing deadline, many VITA sites were open until July 15, (and beyond) to help low- and moderate-income households.
VITA services were more important than ever in 2020 and will be equally important during the 2021 filing season, as families continue to struggle with having enough resources to meet their financial obligations. During a national health and economic crisis, a tax refund or a federal stimulus payment can be a lifeline, helping families survive one day to another. VITA sites have been a trusted resource for over half a century, helping working families file their taxes and obtain access to critical tax credits and refunds which can be used to purchase groceries, pay bills and build emergency savings. This past year, taxpayers and non-filers alike sought out free, high-quality VITA services to gain access not only to their refunds but also to EIPs for critical cash payments that would help them navigate the financial hardships resulting from the pandemic.
With increased VITA funding moving into next year, as well as the lookback provision included in the end-of-the-year stimulus bill, Prosperity Now’s Taxpayer Opportunity Network will continue to work with our partners and stakeholders, such as United Way Worldwide, to help support low- and moderate-income families through these unprecedented times. In the meantime, please take a moment and thank your members of Congress for funding VITA at $30 million in fiscal year 2021.
Originally posted by Prosperity Now on 2021-01-11 18:00:00