Tax Time Means CUs Launch Annual VITA Efforts
- Credit unions across the country participate in VITA tax return preparation effort.
- Millions of direct-deposited refunds are generated, refund anticipation loans avoided.
- Participants cite serving the mission as primary motivation.
As it’s grown, credit unions and their volunteers have become an integral part of VITA, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program that provides free help on returns to those who qualify–and that’s millions of American households.
"This also is the time of year when people of low wealth actually can have disposable income and that makes it a very important time for credit unions to connect with them," Kitsch said. "It’s the time to encourage them to open a savings account and establish that relationship."
That’s what happens at the $114 million Dane County CU in Madison, Wis., where about 20 to 25 new accounts are established each year for direct deposit of refunds, and about four or five continue on as regular members, said Joe Molke, the credit union’s business development manager.
Santare and other CU managers involved in VITA recommend turning to their state leagues and groups like the NCUF for grants and training tools and other help in setting up the programs. Some who have stepped up include the Michigan Credit Union League, which last year worked with 124 credit unions to help more than 6,300 residents get back $13.6 million in refunds.
That includes the $70 million FinancialEdge Community CU in Bay City, Mich., which works with the local United Way while providing seven workstations, computers and technical support to anyone in Bay County who wants to use the service.
The number of returns processed varies as widely as the size of the organization. For instance, volunteers with the $1.2 billion CFE FCU in Orlando, Fla., helped file more than 800 returns for tax refunds totaling more than $1.3 billion, said Suzanne Dusch, vice president of marketing at 116,000-member CFE.
Meanwhile, the $29 million, 3,800-member Carolina FCU in Cherryville, N.C., helped with 170 state and federal returns last year, said its president, Donna Beringer, who added, "They did not have to pay to file and are not tempted to use refund anticipation loan places."