You may not feel like a miracle worker some days, but guess what? — if you can fill out a simple tax return, you can work miracles for people who need help in your community. All it takes is for you sign up as a volunteer for your local free tax-preparation program.
Alan Floth found out for himself when he volunteered in Arizona with Mesa United Way’s year-round Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.
Alan helped a 17-year-old get financial aid to attend community college. The teen needed his mom’s tax returns to apply, but a paid tax consultant told his mom not to bother filing taxes since she made only $100 per week cleaning houses.
Wrong. And wrong.
Alan helped the woman file her taxes — and got her a $3,000 refund. Her tax returns helped her son to verify income and qualified him for a federal grant that paid for his first two years of college.
Alan signed up to volunteer to stay active after retiring, “but I soon found that it was very, very gratifying being able to help people who could not do this themselves,” he says.
He’s one of 170 volunteers working small miracles at United Way’s VITA program in Mesa, Chandler and Gilbert, Arizona. Their goal is to help 7,000 people file returns at 16 different VITA sites.
As we celebrate VITA Awareness Day on March 13, consider offering up your talents in your community. You can get free training to fill important roles, like:
- Greeters, who welcome taxpayers and make sure they’ve got a scheduled appointment.
- Screeners, who help taxpayers with the intake process, checking materials and making sure each person is ready.
- IRS-certified tax preparers, who help fill out forms and file taxes for those who qualify.
- Other volunteers, who help with planning; marketing and promotion; volunteer recruitment; and more.
VITA volunteers build their resumes, learn new skills, meet new people and experience satisfaction by helping people receive what they deserve.
“I enjoy doing this so much because I get to interact with families and help them with getting refunds, which is sometimes very confusing for them,” said Mesa United Way volunteer Cathy Gross. “So it’s a real exciting thing for me to be able to help them.”
Your local United Way can help you find a volunteer role for you this tax season, and throughout the year.