It is no exaggeration to say that this year was the most complex and challenging VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) season in history. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic created challenges to providing in-person tax assistance, but our VITA team was determined to find solutions.
With careful planning and creative thinking, a variety of methods were implemented to accommodate the community without jeopardizing the health and safety of our taxpayers and volunteers. Traditional (with COVID-19 safety measures), drop-off, virtual and self-assistance sites were all utilized to provide the tax services that are so desperately needed by the ALICE population that we serve. Additionally, an online help desk was made available to those choosing to do their own taxes online.
For this tax season, United Way Suncoast VITA-specific sites prepared 8,449 returns. This equates to $10,989,897 in money back to our community ($1,837,000 in fees saved and $9,152,897 in refunds). Additionally, our community members received $3,286,925 in total credits (Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) of $1,675,448, Child Tax Credit (CTC) of $934,836 and additional CTC of $676,641). Our partnership with AARP in Hillsborough County completed another 736 returns and Step Up Suncoast in Manatee County completed 970 returns.
In addition to money returned to our ALICE population through VITA, millions more were received in the form of Economic Impact Payments, Rental Assistance Payments, and other COVID-related dollars that people were able to access because they filed their taxes with the support of VITA.
We continue to serve our community via our year-round VITA sites at our United Way Suncoast office in Sarasota, our Sulphur Springs Resource Center, and Daystar Life Center.
Thanks to all of our VITA volunteers, partner sites and everyone who contributed to providing free and accurate tax preparation services to low- to moderate-income taxpayers in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.