The VITA program has now opened for calendar year 2017. The federal government funded program, formally known as Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, allows Americans with an income of less than $55,000 or so to file their taxes for free. Note the income ranges can vary slightly by local community. Since the census bureau states that the median household income in this country is about $50,000, this means that roughly 50%+ of Americans could qualify for VITA. So say goodbye to costly TurboTax, H&R Block services, and all those fee based providers!
We are always very surprised at how few Americans use this free service. While around 50% of households can qualify in 2017, it is estimated that anywhere from 5 to 10% of Americans use it. The exact usage is hard to determine and there are different data points from a wide variety of agencies. The IRS, community action agencies, United Way, and others report on total usage, and their measurements vary widely. But we think the fact is that only a fraction of those that qualify for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance actually use it.
As we stated, this is a free service! There is no reason to buy TurboTax software in the store and spend $40 to $80 dollars on it. There is no need to stop by Liberty Tax or H&R Block and pay $50 to $100 or even more to have a “professional” do your taxes. Over 50% of American households (or 60 million+ households according to the census bureau) could use VITA in 2017. But they either do not know about it or refuse to use it for some unknown reasons.
We do agree that many government supported programs are for very low income families and/or those living in poverty. But this is not true when it comes to the income tax filing service. This was created to not only help low-income households, but also middle/moderate income Americans. Anyone with an income of less than about ~$55,000 throughout 2016 can qualify. That is obviously a big segment on the population.
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program will help about 50% of American households not only file their returns, but it also covers deposit of funds into their account. There is no cost to file Earned Income Tax Credit or the Child Tax Credit, and the service covers any federal tax need a client may have. Read more VITA income tax filing program.
2017 VITA program dates
It is a nationwide program that is run locally. It will tend to start up about the third week of January, and most locations allow households to file using VITA effective as of January 23, 2017. It will run until early April, with a deadline normally being April 18, 2017. Note all of this is for the clients 2016 taxes.
Therefore the family should assemble all of their documents for the 2016 calendar year. They should bring their W-2, copy of social security cards, 1099s, health insurance policy information, statements on mortgage and medical payments made in 2016, and all of their financial data. Be prepared!
So as long as your income was less than the mid 50K range, you can file your taxes for free in 2017! So save all that money on the high cost preparers and/or software and look into a local VITA site in your town.