MADISON, Wis. (3/7/13)--Credit unions nationwide continue to build trust within their communities by providing members with member-centric services. This time of year they do so with free assistance on tax preparation.
Texas credit unions are participating in the Internal Revenue Service's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA). The program offers free tax help to low- to moderate-income individuals who cannot prepare their own tax returns.
City CU in Dallas is among the credit unions involved in the initiative. "We decided to participate with the VITA project based upon two of our guiding principles: People helping people and commitment to education," Sharon Moore, City CU president/CEO said in a Texas Credit Union League press release.
NCI Community Development CU, chartered in Houston last year, also participated in the Texas VITA initiative. "Many families do not file a return and/or lack the knowledge of where to turn for help, and as a result, are not realizing the amount of income they can receive through the Earned Income Tax Credits, for example," said Randy Martinez, president/CEO of NCI Community CU. "It is our hope that by offering free income tax preparation services, the individuals who seek our service will also open an account with the credit union for direct deposit of their tax returns."
The El Paso Affordable Housing Credit Union Service Organization (AHCUSO) has championed VITA for years. It serves as the managing organization for the El Paso Coalition for Family Economic Program. Larry Garcia, president/CEO of AHCUSO, chairs the coalition, a consortium of 22 private, public and not-for-profit organizations instrumental in assisting thousands of El Paso residents with gaining access to the IRS‟ Earned Income and Child Tax Credit Programs.
"There are approximately 30,000 families in our area that have not claimed their Earned Income and Child Tax Credits," Garcia said. "This equates to $100 million left out of our community every year." This year, the coalition is offering 16 VITA sites.
Coastal Community and Teachers CU's VITA program participation is part of the Corpus Christi-based credit union's community outreach efforts, President/CEO Gina Prince told the league. The credit union has 36 employees who assist taxpayers. Through Feb. 23, the credit union has assisted in filing 283 returns totaling $533,660.
Other credit unions nationwide taking part in VITA:
- Electro Savings CU, St. Louis, partnered with the Gateway EITC Community Coalition, an organization that offers free tax preparation at more 30 sites throughout the St. Louis area to families with incomes less than $51,000. The credit union will offer free financial services on Saturdays through April 13 (stltoday.com Feb. 12). The credit union seeks to help people avoid high fees in managing their money and those who do not have accounts with financial institutions, said Laura Mugge, community development specialist for Electro Savings CU.
- For the 10th year, Bethpage (N.Y.) FCU, is helping low- to moderate-income households on Long Island prepare their tax returns for free, by offering Long Island's largest VITA program at 12 of its branch locations.
- Belco Community CU, Harrisburg, Pa., is providing free tax preparation services through VITA from Jan. 29 to April 29.