United Way of the Plains

Volunteers Assist Community with Free Income Tax Preparation and Smart Money Habits

VITACharles is an accountant at Sunflower Bank and helps people with finances every day. When he learned about United Way’s free income tax preparation program he jumped at the first chance to volunteer.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) provides free income tax preparation for people with low to moderate income. The program is offered through Building Economic Stability Together (BE$T) Coalition of South Central Kansas. BE$T was founded by United Way, the City of Wichita and the IRS.

Volunteer Role
The program relies on volunteers like Charles. Volunteers act as site coordinators, tax preparers and greeters at sites offered across Wichita and in the surrounding counties. No experience is needed to volunteer and training is provided.

Charles was trained and certified by the IRS through United Way of the Plains and has been a site coordinator and volunteer since 2009.

“I really get the chance to educate people and calm them down about taxes,” he said. “It is a fiscal responsibility, a free service for people and helps them in so many different ways financially.”

Helping Clients
According to Charles, a lot of clients with low income use VITA to obtain upfront, basic information which means their taxes are simple.

Typically, people will pay $50 to $75 for others to do their taxes just to receive $120 in return. People with children who are looking to receive a significant return of $3,000 can pay up to $450 to complete their tax return.

“Just think what they could do with $450,” said Charles.

The free program lets people take an easy step today to save money that allows them to get ahead tomorrow.

“It was surprising how many people come in who don’t need much, just help with W2 forms, health information, receiving pensions, social security or receiving what was readily given out at the time,” said Charles.

Return on Investment
Charles and the other VITA volunteers have developed relationships with their clients, who return with a more relaxed attitude.

“I want to give back,” said Charles. “I have been fortunate in going to school, being educated and there have been people along the way that have helped me. I just think it is a responsibility to give back in some shape or form.”

Offering free income tax preparation is just one way United Way is working to empower people to become financially stable. We also fund local programs that address local problems in the area of education and health. Learn more at www.unitedwayplains.org/about-us.