VITA Coalition Increases Tax Returns for Community 

MUSKEGON -- Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Services for West Michigan – a coalition of fifteen area nonprofit organizations – teamed up once again this year to provide free income tax preparation services for low- to moderate-income individuals and families eligible for significant state and federal tax credits such as Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Michigan Homestead Property Tax Credit.

This year the VITA coalition generated 2,201 federal and state tax returns for individuals and families returning $2,405,748 to the community. This compares to last year’s totals of 1,432 tax returns filed and $1,460,232 in refund dollars. Included in this year’s return total are over 300 returns self-filed by individuals using a free online tax preparation program sponsored by United Way Worldwide and Goodwill Industries International.

Volunteer-assisted tax preparation was available from February through April 2013 at a wide range of dates, and times, including two, all-day “Super Saturdays” held at Goodwill’s Workforce Development Center in Muskegon. In addition to six volunteer tax sites in Muskegon County, the coalition supported eight locations in Lake, Newaygo and Oceana counties, plus a special service day at the U.S. Coast Guard Station in Grand Haven.

Participating agencies that make up the coalition include: Goodwill Industries of West Michigan, Baker College of Muskegon, Community enCompass, CALL 2-1-1, TrueNorth Community Services, Family Health Care (Baldwin, Grant and White Cloud,) United Way of the Lakeshore, Community Coordinating Council,  Internal Revenue Service – SPEC, Love INC – Muskegon, Love INC – Newaygo County, Muskegon Community College, Hart Area Public Library, Hesperia Community Library, and Holton Branch Library.

To support the VITA program operations, grant funding was also received from the IRS, the National Community Tax Coalition, the Community Foundation for Muskegon County, the Fremont Area Community Foundation, and Goodwill Industries International.

Forty-one volunteers generously donated their time to provide free tax preparation services at 15 locations in Muskegon and surrounding counties. Volunteers were required to complete an intensive IRS training program and pass a certification test.

“Volunteers are key,” said Goodwill Prosperity Center Manager Jane Drake. “We were excited to see how many people used the free online filing program we offered this year, but there will always be people that need volunteer assistance when it comes to filing taxes. The more volunteers we have, the more people we can serve.” 

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