The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is a free, tax service provided to households that make less than $60,000 per year. Our team of volunteers, supported by full-time staff, are IRS trained and certified and will provide you with the highest quality return possible. If you are interested in benefiting from this service, please call 211 to schedule an appointment.
Do you want to learn to do income taxes or can you already do your own income tax returns? We need you! United Way of Montcalm-Ionia Counties sponsors VITA sites locally in partnership with other local agencies. However, this is a volunteer-driven program. We cannot succeed and assist your neighbors without your help.
Every year, the United Way of Montcalm-Ionia Counties' Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program provides free tax services to hundreds of individuals and families throughout the Ionia and Montcalm Counties. You can help us provide an invaluable service by volunteering with the VITA program. This year, we will be hosting regular, virtual, orientation sessions to give prospective volunteers a chance to learn about the program, meet staff and some other volunteers, as well as ask questions. All sessions last roughly one hour.
Visit the Volunteer Center to find out more information and sign up to help. https://liveunitedmi.galaxydigital.com/
Why is this important?
As a volunteer, you provide an invaluable service to your friends and neighbors. An hour of your time results in a refund of more than $1,000 and close to $200 in tax preparation fees saved per household.
In short, our volunteers keep invaluable funds in the pockets of those who need, money that stays in our community.
Why am I important?
Beyond the reasons listed above, we need your help to reach more folks. Nationwide the VITA program only reaches roughly 2.5% of the eligible population annually. One of the primary barriers to reaching more households is the number of volunteers that join our program, so you and the hours you contribute truly matter.
By participating in our program there are plenty of ways to learn, grow, and develop:
- Work with a diverse group of volunteers and clients and develop the communication skills to discuss complicated topics
- Experienced tax preparers can go on to become quality reviewers who:
- Support their peers as sources of knowledge
- Ensure high-quality returns
- Provide further education to clients regarding their taxes and financial situation
- Learn about invaluable resources available in the community
No! Our volunteers come from all types of career backgrounds and age groups, from retirees to college students and everything in between. You will only need to have basic computer skills, be willing to complete training, and be driven to help others. Our comprehensive training program will fully prepare you to help our community.
A bit nervous about jumping in to tax preparation or numbers not really your thing? You can help as a Virtual VITA intake specialist, assisting clients gather the necessary documents, and making sure the program is running smoothly.
Our training happens over three 4-hour sessions over three days at our primary location at the South Washington Office Complex located at 2500 S. Washington Ave., Lansing, MI 48910. Lecture portions cover relevant sections of the tax code and hands-on portions allow volunteers to practice preparing returns and working through typical situations. In short, by the time your first client sits in front of you, you’ll be well prepared!
We ask volunteers to serve for one, four-hour shift per week for the 10 weeks of tax season. However we have a wide range of shifts available for you to sign up for, and you will have flexibility in selecting when works for you.
You will be able to choose from several of our locations in Ionia and Montcalm County, including Belding and Howard City.
Errors happen to everyone. What makes the VITA program have a such a high accuracy rate (94+%) is our two-step process, not found with paid tax preparers: a thorough, unhurried tax preparation process and a quality review where a veteran volunteer checks the original tax preparer’s work before submission. This means every return has at least two-sets of eyes that review the work and that nearly every mistake can be caught. If a mistake is made, amendments can be filed to rectify the error, and you as a volunteer are not liable for any honest mistakes. I still have questions! Please reach out to Bethany Broom-Dombrowski at B.Broom-Dombrowski@uwscmi.org
What You Will Need for Your VITA Appointment
The items below are common documents clients are required to bring in order for us to complete your taxes. Please note that you are not required to have all of these documents (i.e. if you were not a student, you will not need forms 1098-E or 1098-T). Prior to your appointment, please review the following list as well as the examples that are available to make sure you have all applicable documents.
- A photo ID for both you and your spouse
- Social Security Cards for self, spouse and/or dependents
- Saving account information for direct deposit
- Copy of prior year's tax return, if available
**Please note: Your taxes cannot be prepared without valid photo identification and social security cards. If filing jointly, both spouses must be present.**
- Wage and earning statements
- W-2 Form
- Pension (Form 1099-R)
- Broker Statements
- Social Security Income (SSA-1099)
- 1099-Misc if you were self-employed
- 1099-K if you were paid on a credit card (typically Lyft and Uber Drivers)
- Childcare provider's taxpayer identification number (TIN) and total paid
- Proof of education expenses paid (Form 1098-T)
- Charitable contributions receipts
- Mortgage interest (Form 1098)
- A heating bill from November or December
Homeowners: summer & winter property tax bills for the previous year
Renters: Landlord's name and address and proof of rent paid in the previous year
Self-Employed: Bring receipts and itemized records of expenses (i.e. mileage with trips recorded, invoices or another listing of income sources, etc.)
THANK YOU TO OUR GENEROUS VITA SPONSORS
Because of YOU, we are able to continue providing VITA assistance in Montcalm and Ionia Counties.
Interested in Becoming a Sponsor?
United Way’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is looking for Annual Community Sponsors to support its mission of providing low to moderate-income households with free, reliable assistance in filing federal and state tax returns. United Way offers the VITA program, a service provided by IRS trained volunteers. Volunteers prepare taxes for elderly, disabled, and low to moderate-income households throughout the community. The VITA program could potentially save local families and individuals hundreds of dollars in tax preparation fees while infusing thousands of dollars into the local economy.
For the tax year of 2021, VITA volunteers were able to prepare 232 returns in Montcalm and Ionia counties alone. These returns generated $361,790 in refunds, and saved individuals and families an estimated $75,054 in preparation fees. Seventeen percent or $61,636 of refunds were due to the valuable Earned Income Credit, assisting asset limited, income constrained, employed (ALICE) families with essentials such as groceries, childcare, housing, and transportation needs. Ionia and Montcalm County VITA clients averaged an AGI of around $12,858 in 2021. Our rural counties lack adequate public transportation and efficient high-speed internet access, both fundamentals in accessing essential programs such as tax preparation.
We are asking you to partner with the VITA program by becoming an annual sponsor. Your donations will be used to expand our services offered throughout the community such as expanding the number of tax preparation locations, mileage reimbursement funds, technology equipment upgrades, WIFI boxes for off-site tax preparation, program advertisement, volunteer training, volunteer recruitment, educational materials, tax preparation software, and our annual Teen Financial Literacy Contest.
Thank you to GetYourRefund and Code for America for the use of their platforms.