Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Have You Filed Your Taxes - Reminder

United Way
of Greater Philadelphia
and Southern New Jersey

Advocate Image/Leader
As the calendar turns to spring, many of us get excited awaiting the arrival of warmer weather, colorful, blooming flowers and an opportunity to engage in outdoor activities. But as a former accountant, I know this time of year also means something else – tax season!
Over the next couple of weeks, there will be a mad dash by some to file their income taxes by the April 15 deadline. Yet for some, this is more than an annual rite - it’s a chance to put a few additional dollars back into their pockets. This is why our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is so important. Through VITA, an IRS-supported tax preparation service, United Way provides eligible candidates with a combined household income of $51,000 or less with access to trained VITA volunteers who will prepare their taxes at no cost. In 2012, VITA volunteers filed more than 20,000 tax returns across the region, which returned more than $28.5 million to individuals and families in communities throughout Greater Philadelphia and southern New Jersey.
The VITA program proved to be just what Michael and Kimberly White*, a middle-aged Burlington County, New Jersey couple, needed. The Whites had experienced a financial setback a few years ago and, in order to avoid foreclosure, they went to a paid tax preparer and applied for an express refund with a cash advance that carried more than a 1200 percent interest charge. This move, all done to save their home, caused the Whites months of financial hardship as they struggled to repay the loan. Two years ago, the Whites reached out to Catholic Charities Emergency and Community Services, a Delanco, New Jersey-based agency that is supported by United Way. Not only did the couple receive free tax preparation services through our VITA program, but they were able to get a refund within two weeks and keep all the money they were entitled to receive.
Or take Mark Pressman,* a southeastern Pennsylvania man in college while working full-time. To save money, Mark would regularly prepare his taxes himself, usually getting between $8 and $10 in refunds. Last year, Mark decided to seek the services of PathwaysPA, a Delaware County-based agency and United Way community partner. Because Mark was paying tuition, the VITA volunteer realized that Mark was eligible for the American Opportunity Credit and a $2,870 refund! Mark used the refund to finish paying for his education, gaining peace of mind and further stability when he learned that relying on a student loan would not be necessary.
There are so many VITA success stories that allow individuals and families to take advantage of valuable tax credits and receive refunds that can alleviate the stress caused by financial hardships. And these stories are possible because of the support we receive from people like you. Your contributions – be it time or money – create opportunities, giving people more than help to get by; but also hope to improve the quality of their lives.
Jill Michal
President and CEO
United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey
*Names changed for privacy

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