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The Inclusive Economy

White Paper Highlights Promising Ideas for Strengthening the VITA Program

By Shervan Sebastian on 07/07/2016 @ 09:00 AM

Tags: Data and Research, EITC, News, Taxpayer Opportunity Network

From the very first day that CFED launched the Taxpayer Opportunity Network in 2015, we have worked to strengthen the national network of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites. Thanks to the support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Intuit Financial Freedom Foundation, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Annie E. Casey Foundation, Citi Foundation and Bank of America Charitable Foundation, the Taxpayer Opportunity Network has conducted innovative research and engaged leaders and practitioners in the community tax preparation field to advance this goal. Last month, we unveiled the latest resource we’ve designed to support this field: Strengthening VITA to Boost Financial Security at Tax Time & Beyond.

Strengthening VITA to Boost Financial Security at Tax Time & Beyond is a white paper CFED developed in partnership with leaders and advocates from the community tax preparation field. It was created in close consultation with members of the Taxpayer Opportunity Network and the Assets & Opportunity Network, and as a result it offers policy recommendations and suggestions for strengthening programs based on insights from leaders on the ground.

Examples of our recommendations include:

  • Congressional authorization so the VITA program is not reliant on an annual funding process, which would protect the program against budget cuts and ensure that it has stable funding longer-term.
  • Increase in funding to keep up with the growing demand for VITA services, which jumped 220% between 2004 and 2012.
  • Establishment of a VITA Innovation Fund to identify, test and scale best practices, including new services to put more money in the pockets of low-income workers.
  • Creation of a federal student loan assistance program to attract new volunteer tax preparers by providing them with a stipend for paying back their student loans.

Our white paper calls for Congress and the Administration to take action to strengthen the community tax preparation field. Practically speaking, this means creating basic competency standards for paid preparers, increasing VITA’s scale, improving VITA’s effectiveness and investing in innovations guided by best practices and local expertise. These reforms will help to ensure that VITA remains a vibrant community effort with large-scale impact on the lives of millions of low- and moderate-income taxpayers for the next 45 years and beyond.

To access additional community tax preparation resources, join the Taxpayer Opportunity Network.

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