My name is Nic Langford and I’m the Economic Development and Financial Literacy AmeriCorps VISTA at Americana Community Center in Louisville, KY. Americana annually serves more than 5,000 refugees, immigrants, and underserved individuals through English as a Second Language courses, youth programs, and family education and coaching.
On January 20th, Louisville’s Mayor Greg Fischer held a press conference at Americana to announce the opening of VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) throughout the city. VITA is a tax-prep system conducted by volunteers to do taxes for low- and moderate-income individuals. The point of VITA is to curb tax confusion and the need for pay-sites.
Tens of millions of dollars have been foregone by Louisville taxpayers over the years simply due to misinformation. Refugees and immigrants are hit the worst. Most work full-time and pay federal and state income taxes throughout the year, and yet many do not know they are entitled to a refund, especially those with a questionable working status. This means they pay-in all year and get nothing back.
Overall it is hard for the masses to navigate tax laws. Tax laws are proposed by politicians, implemented by economists, and vigorously debated in court by tax lawyers. They are dense at best, intentionally misleading at their worst, and just to make things worse, they are forever changing. In order to counteract a confusing process, the IRS has started funding and supporting VITA tax sites so people can get good advice and service for free. VITA is rewarding because it helps keep money in Louisville by ensuring VITA clients get back what they earned.
VITA also serves as an educational tool. After coming to a VITA tax site, students know how to keep track of their school bills, teachers know to record anything they purchase for their classrooms, and parents start keeping diligent records of childcare.
Here’s the truth: if you went to school, worked a single day during the tax year or qualify for any of the tax credits such as earned income, child, or education (or just want to know if you qualify), you should come to a VITA site. The volunteers genuinely care and they will take care of you.
And best of all, it’s free.
For more information about the press conference and about how you can get free tax help in Louisville, check out WAVE3’s coverage of the event.