This article was contributed by Andi Anderson with San Benito County Community Services and Workforce Development.
Community Services and Workforce Development has been providing free tax assistance to San Benito County residents for six years through its partnership with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for the operation of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program and promoting the earned income tax credit (EITC) and providing information on other refundable tax credits. This includes the American Opportunity Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit and the Additional Child Tax Credit.
The total amount of taxes refunded to the community was $517,769, of this $171,113 was in the form of the EITC, which averaged $1,527 per household.
"Our certified tax preparers are here to help San Benito County residents get the maximum refund including the EITC," said Deputy Director Enrique Arreola. "This money can be used to pay off bills, buy that car to get to work or put in a savings account. Let us help make your life a little easier. This was our sixth year providing free tax prep through the VITA program. Staff set a goal of meeting 100 percent of our annual goals and exceeded it by 31 percent. I'd also like to say thank you to all staff and tax preparation volunteers for their hard work, commitment and dedication.”
In 2018 the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program completed 426 tax returns (101 more than the previous season) in San Benito County for low-income residents for free.
By the numbers in San Benito County:
- 426 Tax returns processed by VITA tax preparers
- $517,769 In tax refunds received by low-income residents
- $47,481 In child tax credits received
- $22,519 In average adjusted gross income for those receiving VITA services
- $1,573 In average amount refunded
- 41 Tax returns completed by residents, making over $54,000, online using www.myfreetaxes.com
“I started with an externship in Salinas and two years later I was given the opportunity to become the site coordinator," said Trino Serrano, community services workforce development staff and site coordinator for VITA. "This will be my forth year working with VITA. This program has provided me with the opportunity to meet new people, make community connections, and be exposed to tax knowledge. My passion is working with the public and through the VITA program, I have had a chance to develop and work on my one-on-one communication skills, working in groups, listening and definitely learning to be patient when it comes to working with the public. It's putting the Community Action Board’s vision into practice: 'Ending Poverty by Empowering People,'” Serrano said.
VITA helps millions of low-income workers get their taxes done each year for free, and at 94 percent, the accuracy rate for returns prepared by VITA volunteers is higher than any other type of preparer. Tell Congress we need to expand funding for VITA to ensure even more Americans have access to these critical, highly sought-after services! #VITAWorks https://prosperitynow.quorum.us/campaign/7132/