United Way of Racine County’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program continues adapting and improving our services for Racine County taxpayers every year. The COVID-19 pandemic is a great example of this. During this time, our services had to be adjusted to serve our clients virtually. However, as of last tax season, VITA has returned to offering our full capacity in-person sites.
Last year, VITA returned more than $1,165,000 to Racine County residents through more than 740 completed tax returns.
A huge factor that has played a part in VITA’s continued expansion is our focus on innovation through strategic partnerships.
VITA is helping the next generation through our partnership with the accounting pathway at the Academies of Racine – Case High School. Courtney Wynia, a business and marketing educator, incorporates the VITA program into her classes. Students become IRS-certified and then assist with preparing taxes for community members on the weekends. Last year, Case High School hosted nine Saturday sites with a minimum of 36 appointments per day. During that time, 29 students volunteered their time and helped to complete just under 200 tax returns. This upcoming season we anticipate an even higher number of student volunteers.
This year, we are also excited to bring innovative new ideas to our community.
One new way that we are trying to reach access-impaired community members is by visiting low income apartment complexes and assisted living facilities. Volunteer teams will visit these locations to help prepare Homestead-only returns for those on disability and paying rent. This will help more individuals receive refundable credits from the State of Wisconsin.
Another new idea we our launching this year is our FSA prep sessions for Gateway Technical College students. These sessions will be held in an on-campus computer lab where students will prepare their own return with our free software. IRS-certified volunteers will be on standby to assist and guide students through the process.
We are also proud to announce that we will be hosting rotating pop-up sites at our three community schools – Knapp, Julian Thomas and the Academies of Racine at Mitchell.
The success of VITA is only made possible due to the dedication of our talented volunteers. In order to keep expanding the opportunities and services offered by the program, we need additional volunteers. A variety of volunteer roles are available and not all positions require tax certification. We are seeking bilingual volunteers in any capacity to help assist our Spanish-speaking clientele.
All training is provided and no previous experience is required. We ask that volunteers commit to a minimum of a single two to four hour shift per week during tax season (January through April 15). Training is specific to your role and can be done in-person, virtually or self-guided.
Applications are currently open and will close on Dec. 17. However, we encourage volunteers to apply early to allow time for training and necessary certifications.