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April 10, 2012 > Elected officials and community leaders support VITA program

Elected officials and community leaders support VITA program

Submitted By Jack d'Annibale

Elected officials and community leaders gathered on April 2, 2012 to raise awareness of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, which provides low- and moderate-income individuals with free and reliable assistance to file their federal tax returns. Congressman Mike Honda, State Controller John Chiang and representatives of the United Way of Silicon Valley emphasized the program's importance, noting that millions of families and individuals rely on these services to access the tax credits and refunds to which they are entitled.

Honda has introduced the VITA Act 2011 in the U.S. House of Representatives to permanently authorize the Community Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Matching Program and establish a national center to support VITA.

"The VITA program returns money to the pockets of American families. The program can help a single mother buy schoolbooks for her children or help an under-employed construction worker catch up on his mortgage," said Honda. "The program is also critical in the fight against poverty, providing reliable, no-cost tax preparation services for under-represented and under-served communities. I introduced the VITA Act 2011 in Congress to make VITA services a permanent resource for our communities. This cost-effective program will stimulate the economy and save money for the federal government."

"The availability of VITA sites in our community is critical to help families and individuals achieve financial stability," said Carole Leigh Hutton, president and CEO of United Way Silicon Valley, underscoring VITA's importance. "The free tax service helps many families obtain a substantial refund that significantly increases their income and it helps to return millions of dollars to the local economy." United Way provides support and resources for VITA programs in Silicon Valley and keeps track of the 45 local sites that provide assistance."

State Controller John Chiang, who has been travelling the state to promote the VITA program, visited Santa Clara County to participate in the event. He stressed the VITA program's importance in bringing money back to states and local communities.

In 2010, 52,000 VITA volunteers, nation-wide, helped file three million tax returns for individuals and families, many with an annual household income of less than $40,000. VITA has widespread effects on local economies, with more than $2 billion of total refunds to low- and moderate-income individuals. Locally, Santa Clara County residents receive $7.1M in refunds each year. VITA sites are located at churches, libraries and non-profit organizations across the nation.

Derrick Reyes is a 30-year old Marine veteran who moved to the Bay Area after completing his military service. He discovered JFS' VITA services three years ago, when he was looking for a tax preparation service for veterans, and has been a client ever since. Edit Amirdizajtakeh is a refugee from Iran. She and her family have used VITA services since arriving in America.

Only one-sixth of those eligible to receive free tax-filing assistance are being served by federal programs. People who qualify for free tax help can find the nearest VITA site by calling 211 or visiting www.211scc.org.

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