Jan. 25, 2023
By Hailey Kurtenbach
The tax season can be a stressful time. Preparing and filing taxes can be complex and confusing, especially without the right resources. That’s where the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program comes in. VITA operates under the Internal Revenue Service and helps low-to-moderate income individuals and families prepare and file their federal and state tax for FREE. Every year, trained, IRS certified volunteers come together to provide Hawaii VITA Program services for thousands of local households at VITA sites across the state.
Their impact is apparent. VITA volunteers have helped over 55,000 Hawai‛i residents save more than $13.9 million in tax preparation fees. This money can then be used for much needed goods like groceries or services like childcare which, in turn, benefits local businesses. VITA is a valuable community-strengthening initiative and a resource for those who may not have the means or the knowledge to prepare their own taxes. Locally, it’s also an important service for those with lower literacy skills, and non-English speakers or ESL residents.
There are a number of reasons eligible households should take advantage of this program:
Claim valuable tax credits that you may not have been aware of – like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Last year, in Hawai‛i, the EITC became permanent and refundable. This can be a significant detail to understand for a taxpayer. VITA Volunteers are trained to help taxpayers claim the EITC and other credits that they may be eligible for.
Avoid costly mistakes that could result in penalties or fines. Tax laws can be complex and confusing, and it can be easy to make a mistake when preparing your own taxes. VITA volunteers are trained to help taxpayers avoid common errors and ensure that their tax returns are accurate and complete.
Improve your financial literacy and stability. Many VITA sites offer financial education and resources, financial coaching and counseling, as well as information about financial products and services that can help households save money and build assets. We also recommend connecting with the 211 Statewide Helpline to connect with additional financial literacy, coaching, and savings resources.
Having a trained professional and support system to rely on submitting accurate annual tax returns can have a significant impact on a household’s long-term financial health. Improving equitable access to financial services and planning through programs like VITA will help uplift our entire community. If you or someone you know could benefit from the VITA program, please share HawaiiTaxHelp.org.
If you are not eligible for VITA, find additional community support by connecting with the 211 Statewide Helpline by phone, text, live chat, or the online resource database at AUW211.org.