United Way of Northwest Arkansas and CARE Community Center worked hard to help hardworking families in NWA keep their hard earned money this year by providing free tax preparation and filing services. Individuals and families who earned less than $58,000 in 2014 had the opportunity to file their taxes for free at a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site or on MyFreeTaxes.com.
This year 3,745 NWA hardworking families and individuals had their taxes prepared through the Free Tax Service Initiative, resulting in over $4.3 million in tax refunds. Tax preparers also received another $3 million from the Earned Income Tax Credit. That means the Free Tax Service Initiative helped put $7.3 million back into the pockets of families and individuals in Northwest Arkansas. The IRS estimates that the average cost to file a return is $210, which means we helped save a total of $786,450 in tax preparation fees.
CARE Community Center provided all of the services at the VITA sites, where IRS-certified volunteers helped prepare taxes and see what credits tax preparers qualified for. VITA sites were located in Rogers at CARE Community Center and the Center for Non-Profits, Fayetteville, Siloam Springs, and Huntsville. Hours of operation ranged for each location, but included day, evening, and weekend appointment times. Between the five locations, VITA sites were opened a combined total of 60 hours per week during the tax season. In order to provide free tax services at the VITA sites, CARE Community Center utilized 53 volunteers for a total of 3,781 volunteer hours.
This year, Belinda Davis utilized a VITA site to prepare her taxes. Belinda said that if she hadn’t used a free tax site, she would have attempted to file her own taxes online. Belinda said, “By using a VITA site, I felt confident that my taxes were being done right.” She thought that the volunteers were extremely knowledgeable and that they asked a lot of questions to ensure that she would get all of the returns she was eligible for. She felt that the VITA sites were extremely accommodating and friendly, and that everything was quick and smooth with her appointment. She also liked that after her tax forms were completed, another volunteer reviewed them to ensure everything was accurate. Overall, Belinda said that her experience with VITA and free tax preparation services were extremely helpful and beneficial.