Can you imagine having to pay $350 to a commercial tax preparation service when you live on $23,000 a year? Paying exorbitant fees can take away from the ability to pay utility bills or purchase adequate food for families. The Social Development Commission (SDC) operates the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, and the program is in jeopardy. VITA offers free preparation of federal and state tax returns to low and middle-income households. In 2016, the agency prepared 11,853 federal and state returns. In compliance with an $85,000 federal grant from the IRS, which covers a portion of operating expenses, SDC is required to raise matching funds. There is a shortfall and SDC is in tremendous need of a minimum of $35,000 in matching funds; significantly more to operate at full capacity.
Each year, VITA saves households approximately $1.4 million each year in preparation fees. It costs $350,000 to operate three sites. If donations for the full cost of the program are not received, 4,500 of the approximately 6,000 households served annually will not receive service. SDC is in desperate need of financial contributions or operations will be forced to shut down well in advance of final date to file returns, April 17. The inability to provide service will impact the entire community, including seniors and the disabled.
Businesses, foundations, organizations and individuals that want to help the VITA program serve members of our community, must donate by January 31.
Financial donations ranging from $5 to tens of thousands are critical to support the operation of this valuable program. Matching funds allow a greater number of low and middle-income individuals and families to receive free tax service and retain crucial dollars within their household. Those interested in making a donation to help the VITA program reach its goal, can click on the “Give Now” tab at sd-foundation.org or can contact LaToya Jones at 414.906.2823 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the 16 years SDC has operated VITA, nearly 190,000 returns have been filed at no cost resulting in a return of over $193 million to the local economy.
Tax preparation and filing is only one component of VITA. Clients served by the program have the opportunity to participate in financial education workshops, one-on-one financial coaching, and the opportunity to open new bank accounts and learn about other services offered by financial institutions.
For more than 50 years, the Social Development Commission has operated as the Community Action Agency for Milwaukee County. SDC serves as a planner, coordinator, and provider of human service programs for low-income individuals and families residing in Milwaukee County. The agency is an intergovernmental commission and is governed by a board of 18 citizens from Milwaukee County, each of whom hold the title of “Commissioner.” For more information on SDC’s programs and services, visit cr-sdc.org. Connect with us on Facebook www.Facebook.com/SDCMilwaukee and Twitter www.twitter.com/CRSDC.