Free tax service program increases returns despite challenges

Volunteers return more than $3.5 million to community

MUSKEGON – Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Services for West Michigan – a coalition of area nonprofit organizations led by Goodwill Industries – once again provided free income tax returns for eligible low- to moderate-income individuals and families this past tax season. Despite its dwindling volunteer base, and a change in the software program provided by the IRS, VITA Services processed 2,737 returns resulting in more than $3.5 million to the West Michigan community.

“Having to train on a new software system this year did result in some volunteer loss,” said Goodwill Tax Program Coordinator Carl Lewis. “Due to the efforts of some very dedicated staff and volunteers, we were able to slightly increase last year’s numbers. Nevertheless, the community need surpasses our capacity to serve. It all comes down to volunteers.”

This year VITA was able to serve Newaygo, Oceana, Ottawa, and Muskegon counties, offering nine different community sites for processing returns.

“We sincerely thank our volunteers for their incredible service to the community,” Lewis said. “We are also grateful to our funding partners and community collaborators that make the program possible.”

In addition to Goodwill Industries of West Michigan, participating program partners that make up VITA Services for West Michigan include: Asset Building Coalition of West Michigan, Baker College of Muskegon, Community enCompass, Community Access Line of the Lakeshore 211, Heart of West Michigan United Way 211, TrueNorth Community Services, Hart City Hall, Grand Haven Neighborhood Housing Services, Tanglewood Park, Muskegon Heights Public Library, and My Free Taxes. 

Funding partners that supported this year’s tax preparation efforts included: Goodwill Industries of West Michigan, Community Foundation for Muskegon County, Fremont Area Community Foundation, Community Foundation for Oceana County, Comerica Bank, Community Economic Development Association of Michigan, the Internal Revenue Service, and United Way of the Lakeshore.

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED!

Goodwill Industries of West Michigan is currently seeking volunteer tax preparers for next season.

If you are interested in learning more about the program or volunteering in one of the various volunteer positions associated with VITA, please contact Goodwill Tax Program Coordinator Carl Lewis at (231) 722-7871 x1071 or clewis@goodwillwm.org.

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