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CUs tax filing programs yield impressive results
MADISON, Wis. (5/5/10)--Credit unions are reporting some impressive results--saving their members millions of dollars--from their efforts to assist members with the tax-filing season, especially in North Carolina and Michigan. In Raleigh, N.C., the State Employees' CU (SECU) completed its third year of providing tax-preparation services to members. SECU chalked up a 41% increase in its free Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, preparing more than 35,000 member returns. In its introductory season of paid tax-preparation services, SECU also assisted more than 2,100 members whose incomes thresholds surpassed VITA guidelines. Between the two tax-preparation programs, SECU helped members claim more than $26.2 million in tax credits, including $15.2 million in Earned Income Tax Credits. The credit union also helped members receive $52.8 million in tax refunds and saved them more than $5.4 million in tax preparation fees. SECU also provided a low cost 12% annual percentage rate (APR) Tax Refund Express loan, but strongly encouraged members to avoid any refund anticipation loan costs by simply waiting on the quick electronic refund. "Two years ago, SECU completed 16,000 tax returns in its first year as a VITA partner, and this year, it's completed more than 35,000. To be completing that number of tax returns with such dedication of resources is impressive," said Julie Garcia, director of Stakeholder Partnerships, Education and Communications (SPEC) with the IRS. "By next year, SECU will have a VITA site in every county in North Carolina. We are hoping to replicate the SECU model in other states across the U.S.," Garcia said. Roger Burton, territory manager for IRS SPEC, said that SECU developed "an effective training program that allows it to train nearly 1,000 VITA preparers with help from only two IRS employees. By replicating this model, we can improve outreach to an even greater number of players." Josh Kelly, SECU senior vice president of tax preparation services, said the success SECU had is "a direct reflection of the dedication and teamwork exhibited by credit unions staff. In another state, the Michigan Credit Union League's Just File It! free tax-preparation service saw a large increase in the number of tax filers and amount of tax credits and refunds returned to Michigan credit union members, according to the league (Michigan Monitor May 3). Roughly 125 Michigan credit unions provided nearly $13.7 million in refunds and credits to nearly 5,000 individuals. This year's numbers topped last year's refund and credit totals by more than $1 million. The league said that when adding the totals from credit union participants with non-credit union partners, Just File It! returned nearly $21.8 million--a record--to Michigan residents.

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