I have worked for the VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) program as a volunteer and now coordinator for a total of 15 years. This program helps hard working individuals and families who earn less than $54,000 a year prepare their taxes. One of the goals of the program is to serve clients eligible for the EITC – Earned Income Tax Credit. For families, the EITC can be a savings program, an opportunity to catch-up on bills, and part of their budget process, but usually all three. Numerous studies show the power of EITC to pull families above the poverty level.
The first time I experienced the impact the EITC can have on a family was more than 10 years ago. The father was a janitor with one of our school districts and the mother, wanting to be home to raise their two sons, worked as a lunch lady for the same district. Their income wasn’t more than $30,000. While I was helping them prepare their tax return we were talking about the boys, and how tough it was to stay home and live on their salaries, which is a common conversation at our tax sites. When we completed the return I turned and said your refund is $4,000 dollars and began to explain the next steps when they both burst into tears. They had always completed their own returns and didn’t know about the EITC. I amended three years of returns providing larger refunds for each year. This money provided additional opportunity for their children who are now young adults.
A more recent client had come in during our off-season tax sessions. The client was recently divorced, had 2 young boys and had lost everything but her car. She and her husband were very well off but had run into hard times. She was working at a library and was just hoping to get enough of a refund that would help her catch up on her rent. Her family’s past income was well above limits for both the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and the EITC so she had never heard of either program. When I told her the refund amount she began to shake. She said it was the first good thing to happen in quite a while. She had a rough two years, but because of the CTC and EITC she was able to catch up on bills and get ahead on car maintenance.
Most of my volunteers with a couple of years of tax work have many stories like these. Our clients are thankful they were able to receive help on their tax return, but even more thankful for the extra boost that helped them stay on their feet and opened doors of opportunity. The EITC and CTC are programs that encourage work and promote independence. Theses programs are good for local business and our community.
If you would like to learn more about the EITC and CTC, join us today and 1:00 p.m. for a LIVE discussion about why they are at risk this Fall.
To urge your Utah delegation to take action and save key provisions for the EITC/CTC, send them an email today!