NHS believes in VITA

by Lou Tisler   February/17/2016

We are an engaged participant in the Cuyahoga EITC Coalition, led by Enterprise Community Partners. For 6 years, we have been a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site and have a goal to serve 1,000 families a year. Nichole Pulley, our site coordinator, continues to recruit volunteers from the community and run our site smoothly.

One of the best parts of the VITA program is that we can partner and collaborate with our community stakeholders. Last weekend, we partnered with Third Federal Savings & Loan, Ohio Savings Bank, and John Carroll University to hold a huge Super Refund Saturdayevent at Cleveland Central Catholic. Serving more than 100 families, we brought $300,000 in federal and state refunds to northeast Ohio. What’s more, we saved taxpayers $70,000 in fees!

In our mission to help families and individuals achieve, preserve, and sustain homeownership – the EITC is a tool for each of those areas.

As much as it is a poverty relief tool for working families, it is also an economic development program. Our community in Broadway Slavic Village has more than 50% of residents eligible for the EITC. How important is the EITC and free tax service to our communities? It is pivotal. Our clients tell us they use these dollars for utility bills, housing payments, and food. Increasingly, we are hearing from clients that they plan to save portions of their refunds, which is why it’s absolutely key to integrate financial programs and services into the VITA process. The EITC and free tax preparation are an excellent combination for asset building. NHS offers free financial capability (fincap) counseling before and after tax time to help families leverage this golden moment of the year.

We are proud to be a free tax preparation site but we are not resting there. We continue to work with policymakers and communities to help better fund free tax preparation, expand the EITC, and curtail egregious storefront preparers.

Senator Sherrod Brown has been the most vocal supporter for these efforts and we share the most recent successes with him. A little known fact is that Senator Brown actually ran a free tax VITA site out of his Lorain office when he was in the House of Representatives. It is a wonderful thing to see his efforts come full circle – a great example of this is local journalist, Sam Allard’s focus on tax preparation. Make sure to read his piece, “Unregulated Storefront Tax Preparers Collect Fees From Low-Income Americans, and Local Advocates Want to Change That.”