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Texas CUs act to aid families during tax season
FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (11/24/08)--Credit unions in Texas are participating in the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA), according to the Texas Credit Union League. The El Paso Affordable Housing Credit Union Service Organization (AHCUSO), Neighborhood Centers Inc. (NCI) and Generations FCU, San Antonio, are involved with the initiative, which expands free services to taxpayers (LoneStar Leaguer Nov. 21). AHCUSO includes eight El Paso credit unions: GECU, West Texas CU, El Paso Teachers FCU, First Light FCU, Mountain Star FCU, Golden Key FCU, El Paso Employees FCU and One Source FCU. The credit unions received an $86,400 grant from the IRS. AHCUSO also has served as the managing organization for the El Paso Coalition for Family Economic Progress. The coalition has helped El Paso residents access the IRS’ Earned Income and Child Tax Credit Programs. NCI is a social service agency that offers support to families. Two years ago, the agency applied for a credit union charter. NCI Community Development CU will open next February. San Antonio also is an IRS grant recipient, and like Generations FCU, is a partner organization in the San Antonio Coalition for Family Economic program. The city was given $119,000 to expand the VITA program. Last year, credit unions participating in VITA funded 1,129 refund anticipation loans (RALS), totaling $2.8 million. In 2008, they funded 2,164 RALs, totaling $5.7 million and the average loan $2,860, according to Bonnie Contreras, director of business development, Generations FCU. “Not only did this program save taxpayers money because they were not charged the exorbitant fees they would likely pay elsewhere, but the credit union gained 1,067 members in 2007 and 1,515 members in 2008,” she told the league. “The VITA program helps prevent equity stripping,” added AHCUSO president and coalition chair Larry Garcia. “If not for our free tax preparation sites, these families might turn to high-cost tax preparation services, and even worse, fall victim to the costly RALs.”
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