Saturday, December 18, 2010

Free Tax Prep Program Receives Largest IRS Grant Yet

$150,000 in federal funding will offer boost to local program that helps low-, moderate-income families

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently awarded a $150,000 grant to Indy’s Campaign for Financial Fitness (ICFF) and the Indianapolis Asset Building Coalition (IABC) to boost the citywide Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program in 2011.

The VITA program, known for several years as “Save, Earn and Learn,” works in partnership with ICFF, which is chaired by First Lady of Indianapolis Winnie Ballard. Last year, the effort received $90,000 in IRS funding and worked to prepare 4,500 tax returns for EITC-eligible Indianapolis residents. This year, the program will feature expanded sites and a special Free Tax Prep Kickoff event on Jan. 27, 2011, at Conseco Fieldhouse.

“The IRS VITA grant is a welcome boost for our local financial fitness initiatives,” said Winnie Ballard. “Providing free tax prep for thousands of eligible residents is one of the best ways we can help individuals and families in Indianapolis keep more of their hard-earned money and stay on track for long-term financial stability.”

Locally, the VITA program is a collaboration of public and private entities, including the City of Indianapolis, United Way of Central Indiana, Central Indiana Community Foundation, local banks and financial institutions, and nonprofit organizations focused on asset building and financial fitness. The grant application was submitted through the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee, a public-private partnership that also is an ICFF partner and a member of the IABC.

VITA partners provide free federal tax return preparation and electronic filing to low- and moderate-income individuals. For tax year 2010, individuals and families with an adjusted gross income of $49,000 or lower are eligible for assistance.

“The Indianapolis Senior Center (ISC) is proud to partner with Indy’s Campaign for Financial Fitness to provide free tax prep services,” said Judy Oakley, ISC Operations Manager. “Our residents and members love this service because it’s prompt, their money is deposited into their bank accounts in a few days, and they feel secure in knowing the people helping them have their best interests at heart.

In Indianapolis, six neighborhood community centers and three corporate offices serve as VITA sites, helping recruit volunteers and providing staff support during a variety of hours. They include John H. Boner Community Center, Hawthorne Community Center, Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center, Oasis Christian CDC, Shepherd Community Center, Southeast Community Services, Clarian Health Partners in partnership with Clarian Federal CU, Finance Center Federal CU and Citizens Energy Group.

There also will be one-day VITA sites called Mobile Tax Sites at 20 locations: Heritage Place, ISC, Bosma Enterprises, Habitat for Humanity, Villages at Mills Crossings, Stetson Apartments, Clarian CU, Finance Center FCU, Fay Biccard Glick Neighborhood Center, Concord Neighborhood Center, Missions Place Apartments, Bethesda Temple, ELSA Weed and Seed, Christamore House, Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis, Goodwill Industries, City-County Building, UNWA, Inc., Celadon, Inc., and CVS/pharmacy Distribution Center.

The VITA grant funds will be used to:

* Enable VITA programs to extend services to underserved populations and hardest-to-reach areas, both within and outside of the City’s urban core
* Increase the capacity to file returns electronically
* Heighten quality control and improve the accuracy of returns prepared by the VITA sites
* Enhance training of volunteers

Individuals interested in volunteering to assist Indianapolis community centers with tax prep and other financial fitness services may visit to register.

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