RALEIGH, N.C. (5/2/11)--State Employees’ Credit Union (SECU) helped nearly 53,000 members claim more than $82 million in refunds while saving them roughly $7.9 million in fees during the 2011 tax season. This is the fourth year SECU has assisted members with tax preparation. Through its participation in the Internal Revenue Service free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, the credit union increased the number of members helped by more than 35% to nearly 48,000, from 35,000 in 2010. VITA is an IRS program that helps low- and moderate-income taxpayers complete their annual tax returns at no cost. Credit unions and community organizations receive IRS-provided training in the preparation of basic tax returns and establishment of tax preparation sites. In only its second year of offering a low-cost tax preparation service for members who are above the income threshold for VITA, SECU more than doubled the number assisted, increasing to nearly 5,000 from the 2,100 figure of last season. A main focus of SECU’s tax preparation services is to ensure that participating members benefit from all tax credits for which they qualify--credits that often go unclaimed by those eligible, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). This season, SECU helped members claim more than $35 million in tax credits, including $20.8 million in EITCs. SECU, based in Raleigh, N.C., has $22.5 billion in assets.