photo of tax forms spread out on a table with a sharpened pencil and calculator on top of the paperwork. A sticky note on the top sheet has the question, "Need Help?"
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program provides free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals; photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich, via Pexels.

Tax-Prep Help Available for Low-to-Moderate-Income MA Families

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program provides free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals.

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich, via Pexels.

by Lily Bohlke, Commonwealth News Service

With tax season underway, Massachusetts groups are raising awareness about the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA), an IRS-sponsored program to help people file their income taxes correctly and maximize their refunds.

Community Action agencies and other groups have served more than 30,000 Massachusetts residents, helping them get more than $600 million in refunds.

Alayna Van Tassel, executive director of the Office of Economic Empowerment for the Massachusetts State Treasurer’s Office, said for many families, having free and comprehensive tax preparation services can go a long way.

“Tax refunds can really help pay for essentials, whether it’s groceries, housing or heating costs,” Van Tassel outlined. “We also work with the VITA sites to use tax time as an opportunity to talk to families about long-term financial goals, like saving for their child’s higher education.”

She added while the deadline for filing taxes is not until mid-April, it is important to reach out to a VITA site to get started as soon as possible.

January 28 was National Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Awareness Day, a tax credit for low-to-moderate-income working families.

Rich Sheward, director of innovative partnerships for Children’s Health Watch, said many people may not be aware of the tax credits for which they are eligible.

“VITA sites are very, very focused on making sure that households are aware of the EITC, know what they’re eligible for, and are able to claim that, and the Child Tax Credit as well,” Sheward explained.

Ancel Tejada, financial empowerment program manager at the Massachusetts Association for Community Action, noted there are more than 80 VITA sites around the state, and half are run by the state’s 21 Community Action agencies.

“VITA is a gateway into one of our services,” Tejada remarked. “But remember, when you come into a Community Action Agency, we’re looking for other ways that we’ll be able to help you and offer you wraparound services.”

Due to COVID-19, The Berkshire Community Action Council will not be scheduling in person tax appointments. Instead the organization is offering VITA services through a drop off service, or through “Virtual VITA.”

How to participate in the VITA Program this year:

  • Drop off Service:
    • Clients can visit BCAC’s offices at 1531 East Street, Pittsfield or 85 Main Street, 2nd Floor North Adams and make copies of all tax documents with a copier that is available Monday – Thursday 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., outside of our office. BCAC will not accept any original documents. Participants should make copies of all documents, including ID, fill out the Intake Form located in a box labeled VITA outside the office (or found below under Forms), put in envelope, and drop through our secure mail slot.
    • For a full list of forms needed for your VITA Tax Preparation please CLICK HERE.
    • Virtual VITA: Participants can also choose to have taxes done in the comfort of their own home. BCAC is now able to help with taxes virtually through a secure service. All that clients need to use Virtual VITA service is a computer, tablet or smartphone. IPhone / IPad users can use Safari, Android users can use Chrome. For more information on participating in Virtual VITA,  CLICK HERE.
Collage of photos of people against an illustration of piano keys (Left to right) Yolande Du Bois; Countee Cullen; Jimmie Lunceford; W.E.B. Du Bois
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