VITA is Vital for Low-Wage Workers. Here’s How We Can Make It Even Better.

By Kate Skochdopole

A recent policy brief from the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) explores the importance of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) in helping families reach financial stability and lays out policy options for strengthening the program.

VITA sites offer free tax preparation services for lower-income workers and are staffed by IRS-certified volunteers from the surrounding community. The sites help to raise awareness of tax benefits for low-income filers such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit and equip filers with the tools and advice they need to move towards financial stability. VITA programs boast a 94 percent accuracy rate, substantially higher than that of some paid tax preparers.

The brief finds that tax time is a critical moment in the financial lives of every American, particularly for those with low and moderate incomes. VITA is one of the best resources to help these Americans at tax time, the authors assert. The brief recommends actions Congress can take to preserve and strengthen the program, including creating a national technical assistance center for VITA sites across the country and instituting a federal student loan assistance program for VITA volunteers to ensure that sites have quality preparers in the future. It also encourages the IRS to streamline the process by which VITA volunteers are trained and certified.

Interested in becoming a VITA preparer? You can use the IRS Site Search tool to find a program in your community.