VITA program provides help, guidance for those filing taxes

managing editor

A team of people from The United Way of Tarrant County and U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey made their way through the Family Empowerment Center on South Campus April 6. 

Their reason — the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. 

The United Way funded the VITA project, which has been in operation on South and SE with the goal to give free income tax preparation.

The program relies heavily on the help it gets from IRS-certified volunteers trained to assist during the tax season, and the Family Empowerment Center has volunteers there ready to help.

One of the coordinators, Allison Knott, said she and the people who work at the center partner with community organizations like Catholic Charities of Fort Worth.

“We’re all about community, so everything we do focuses on our students and community,” Knott said.

Veasey came to observe how VITA is working for Tarrant County residents. As a member of Congress, he said he wants to ensure that taxpayer money is being used wisely and believes this program is a way for people to get their taxes done without a fee for a rapid refund.

“A lot of consumers don’t realize that when they go to those places [that offer a rapid refund] that they’re really essentially giving them this loan,” he said. “It’s not really your actual refund check. They’re gonna get your refund check back, and they’re giving you an advance against your refund check, so it’s not actually your money.”

Leah King, current CEO of United Way Tarrant County, started as a volunteer and moved up through the ranks. She said the current goal for VITA is to reach more families who need the assistance and are receiving the deductions that they could qualify for.

“If we’re going to do 5,000 families this year, we want to do 10,000 next year because that is money that otherwise is not coming back into our community and might be left in Washington because it’s unclaimed,” she said.

Households with an income of less than $60,000 are eligible for VITA assistance, and King said she saw VITA benefit the community through the offer of free assistance and complete IRS certification.

“People can come here and have confidence that the IRS has endorsed what’s happening,” she said. “Also, there are opportunities for financial coaching which can help someone on a budget or in debt to really help their overall family.”