IOWA NEWSPAPER ASSOCIATION
Statewide Volunteer Effort Assisted 11,382 Low Income Iowans to File Taxes and Collect $16,629,962 of Refunds
(Des Moines, IA) A massive effort by 729 volunteers to assist low income, working Iowans to prepare and file their 2011 taxes collected $16,629,962 of federal tax refunds including $6,338,377 of Federal Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC). Final reports have been compiled from 23 non-profit organizations (EITC and Beyond Coalition) that set up 89 sites to offer free tax preparation assistance. ISED Ventures of Des Moines, a local non-profit corporation, organized the Coalition.
The EITC and Beyond Coalition was made up of: United Ways, ISU Extension, Community Action Agencies, Legal Services Corp., Retired Senior Volunteer Programs, a Community Corrections District and various other charitable organizations and individuals. They relied primarily on donations from community groups, financial institutions and businesses and recruited retirees, college students, teachers, and many office workers to help. They recruited and trained 729 volunteers, 90 more than 2011, who worked between the end of January and April 15th to assist people on weekends and evenings.
The effort was a great success this year serving 11,382 people, 1,100 more people than in 2011. Many sites reported an increase in returns filed over 2011. Volunteers organized by the United Way of Central Iowa filed 3,549 Federal Returns at their tax sites, an increase of 754 over last year's 2,795 returns. Increases were recorded in rural counties as well. Iowa Legal Aid, Tax Dollars for Perry reported filing 160 Federal Returns, up 48 from last year's 112 returns.
The effort was available to those whose income was less than $50,000. Those eligible received up to $8,000 back through the EITC, depending on the number of children and the amount withheld.
The statewide effort receives financial support from the IRS, who see it as an effort to encourage tax compliance, and the Iowa Dept of Human Services, who see it as non-tax supported assistance to working, low income people. The financial assistance the non-profit organizations receive averages only a few thousand dollars per coalition member and is used to pay for small equipment, space rental, and acknowledgement for the volunteers.
ISED Ventures President, Mike Tramontina said, "The volunteers who do this work are great Iowans. They give-up their evenings and Saturdays, first to go through tax preparation training, then to sit with strangers and work through their tax returns. The volunteers say they do it because they get satisfaction from helping low income Iowans, the elderly, single parents, and immigrants to get a bigger tax refund. For the vast majority of people who are assisted, their tax refund is the only opportunity they'll have all year to set-aside savings for a down payment on a home, for their children's higher education, or to start a small business. There is no better economic stimulus than a tax refund for a working, low-income family."
According to Michelle Bartusek who coordinates the statewide program, the volunteers help in other ways like:
* Potentially saving hundreds of dollars for tax preparation;
* Avoiding a sales pitch from some unscrupulous tax preparers offering "tax refund loans" at predatory interest rates;
* Reviewing previous years' returns for accuracy and making sure the appropriate credits were taken in those years too (i.e. EITC, child tax credits, education credits, etc);
* If a taxpayer didn't file in previous years, helping them to come up to date.
* Finally, many sites offer translation services for immigrants who need the assistance.
The volunteer tax preparers frequently hear heart-warming stories about the need and uses for the refunds such as this actual story in Des Moines. While preparing a 2011 tax return for a client, a tax preparer noticed inconsistencies between this year and previous year's taxes. Upon careful review and further questioning, the preparer determined the previous two years had been filed incorrectly. The tax preparer was able to amend and re-file two previous years which resulted in the taxpayer receiving an additional $8,000+, which couldn't have come at a better time as she had just been informed her position as a para-educator had been eliminated.
Another taxpayer said, "I have been going through some hardships for the past year. My mom was diagnosed with cancer, I lost my job after working there for 20 years and I have to tell you that thanks to volunteers I was able to get the money I needed, when I most needed it. Thank you for what you do."
There is a federal EITC and also an Iowa EITC, which amounts to 7% of the federal. The State has considered but failed to enact an increase to the State EITC for each of the past two legislative sessions.
For the past 24 years, ISED, a private non-profit organization, partners with community members, agencies, organizations and businesses across Iowa to provide comprehensive asset building services.
For further information on ISED Ventures please visit: www.isedventures.org
Attached is a list of 23 Local Coalition Members and the results of this year's effort.
EITC and Beyond Coalition Members;Number of Volunteers ;Federal Returns Filed;Federal Refund Dollars Claimed
Barnabus ISED, Des Moines ;1;64;73,899
Community Correction Improvement Association;64;1,354;2,122,276
Eastside Ministerial Alliance VITA Project,;6;83;206,814
Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way;24;238;352,376
IA Central Community College Humboldt Power Co-op;5;88;117,043
Iowa Legal Aid, Tax Dollars for Perry;36;160;245,273
Iowa Legal Aid, Washington and Brighton;10;83;122,809
ISU EXT Alta / Sac City ;11;112;160,293
ISU Ext Chickasaw Co /New Hampton;9;223;304,596
ISU EXT Hamilton Cty, Webster City;24;397;629,124
ISU Ext, SW Iowa Vita - Shelby County;9;339;611,030
Jasper Co - Retired Senior Volunteer Program Newton;9;414;481,875
Johnson Co Social Services;101;918;1,347,823
Mid Iowa Community Action Inc, ;27;163;267,996
North Central Iowa Mason City, Franklin Co Extension;2;52;68,295
North Iowa Tax Coalition;12;289;352,274
Operation New View;59;223;233,961
Southern Iowa VITA , Ringgold Co;44;434;504,058
United Way of Central Iowa ;170;3,549;5,088,155
United Way Quad Cities - Davenport ;20;1,483;1,897,217
United Way Siouxland ;47;265;892,142
VITA, Jones County;8;92;117,938
(CONTACT: Mike Tramontina, 515-283-0940)