VOLUNTEER TAX PROGRAM COMES TO A CLOSE
(4/18/2007) City residents save more than $372,000 in tax preparation costs and receive thousands back in refunds
NEW HAVEN- Mayor John DeStefano, Jr., held a news conference on today at the Main Branch of the New Haven Free Public Library to mark the close of this year’s free tax assistance program for low income residents and announce data its success.
The New Haven Economic Security Coalition (NHECS) sponsored Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, which helped 2,484 New Haven residents claim more than $3.6 million combined in federal and state refunds. Participation this year increased from last year’s 773 residents who took advantage of the free tax return preparations.
New to the program this year was an opportunity for individuals who did not have social security numbers to electronically register for Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN) allowing them to complete tax returns. ITINs, which were used by 164 participants this year, allow undocumented immigrants to participate in the tax paying process without the requirement of U.S. citizenship or a valid visa. In 2005, more than 1.8 million people in the United States paid taxes using the ITIN.
Six VITA sites were set up through out the city. The Non-profit organization JUNTA and the Main Branch of the library were the two most utilized service locations. The average household income for participants in the program was $16,327. Compared to the average market rate for basic tax preparation services, the VITA program saved New Haven residents $145,000 in service fees.
“This program continues to be a great success for the city and a great benefit for residents who are already working hard and struggling to support their families,” said DeStefano. “By introducing the use of Taxpayer Identification Numbers we were able to include individuals whether documented or not in the tax process to pay their fair share of taxes. We have a city full of hard working families who are responsible and want to comply with their tax responsibilities; this program is just helping them accomplish that.”
VITA volunteers were also able to assist participants in settings up Individual Development Accounts, or IDAs. These savings accounts help low-income residents afford a home, start a small business, or save for an academic degree by providing low-fee matched savings accounts. Along with providing financial management classes, Empower New Haven contributed two dollars to the accounts for every one dollar that each resident deposited.
The average tax filer in New Haven who participated in the NHESC program this year was able to take advantage of Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC). The average head of household filing in the program received a $1900 EITC while married couples filling jointly in the program earned a $2075 EITC. Eligible residents who participated in this program received a combined $1,508,527 in EITC refunds.
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