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Washtenaw United: VITA Volunteers Ready To Help Out Residents With 2019 Taxes

United Way of Washtenaw County
Susan Smith
United Way of Washtenaw County

The end of the year is approaching, which means it's time to start thinking about filing your tax returns.  Such a task can be daunting, which is why the United Way of Washtenaw County (UWWC) developed the Voluntary Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.  In this week's "Washtenaw United," WEMU's David Fair has a conversation about this program with UWWC senior community manager Amanda Reel and Bob Mull, who was UWWC's 2017 Volunteer of the Year.

WEMU has partnered with the United Way of Washtenaw Countyto explore the people, organizations, and institutions creating opportunity and equity in our area.  And, as part of this ongoing series, you’ll also hear from the people benefiting and growing from the investments being made in the areas of our community where there are gaps in available services.  It is a community voice.  It is 'Washtenaw United.'


United Way of Washtenaw County
Credit United Way of Washtenaw County / uwwashtenaw.org
Bob Mull at the VITA Clinic.

Robert Mull retired from Ford Motor Company October 1, 2006 after 34 years of service.  His last position was Executive Director, Vehicle Evaluation and Verification, Product Development Group.  He was responsible for all test operations, including proving grounds, engine and transmission test, emissions test, body and chassis test, and safety test labs, cold weather sites, material testing and standards, prototype planning and build, body CAD, durability engineering, road loads analysis, design aid, and computer aided engineering.

He served as Director, Worldwide Strategy and Cycle Planning for Ford's worldwide product plan, as Director of Product Development for Ford's Asia Pacific region, and spent 7 years working in Asia, including Japan.  He has worked on numerous domestic and worldwide product programs throughout his career, was the Director for the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV) from 1993 to 1996, and was a member of the Ford of Mexico Advisory Board from 1998 to 2000.

Mr. Mull was a member of the Society for Automotive Engineers (SAE), the Chairman of the SAE Motor Vehicle Council, and a Vice President of the Technical Standards Board.  He served on several study committees of the U.S. Congress' Office of Technology Assessmentand the President's Council on Competitiveness.

Mr. Mull is an active member of the Ann Arbor Rotary Club, is a past member of Michigan Jumpstart--a non-profit organization that promotes K to 12 financial literacy--, is a teacher of financial literacy in the Ann Arbor area high schools, is a volunteer tax preparer for the United Way of Washtenaw County Voluntary Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site.  Prior to his tax work, from 2008 to 2011, he was a member of the Department of Treasury Taxpayer Advocacy Panelthat works with the IRS to improve the US tax system, Mr. Mull has been a judge for the PACE Automotive Innovation Awards for 9 years.

Mr. Mull has a B.S. in Industrial Engineering and a Masters of Business Administration both from the University of Michigan.  Mr. Mull was a Combat Engineering Officer in the U.S. Army.  He is married, has twin daughters, a son, and six grandchildren and resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  His wife is an EMU graduate with a master in Historic Preservation and received the EMU Alumni Achievement Award in 2011 primarily for her book on the Michigan Underground Railroad.


Amanda Reel currently serves as the Community Impact & Volunteer Center Manager at United Way of Washtenaw County.  She is passionate about volunteerism as a lever for community change.  She has more than 10 years of volunteer management experience, has developed and delivered volunteer management training, led volunteer manager professional development groups and expanded volunteer programs.  Amanda was also recently selected as a “Community Engagement Fellow."

Voluntary Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA)


United Way of Washtenaw County trains volunteers to provide free tax preparation services to individuals and families with low incomes, allowing them to receive the maximum refund possible to meet their own basic needs or save for the future.

Our tax program ensures that people get the maximum refund they are due without having to pay expensive tax prep fees or be subject to predatory refund-anticipation loans.  This bolsters individual financial stability within our community and injects more dollars back into our local economy.

In 2019, our 88 VITA volunteers gave over 1600 hours to prepare taxes for folks in our community!  

This is their impact:

  • 1,248: Number of free tax returns filed
  • $1.9 million: Total in tax returns and credits returned to Washtenaw County
  • $1,542: Average tax refund amount
  • $312,000: Total amount saved by participants by using our free service*

*Calculated using average cost of filing a tax return at a paid preparer: $250

Our VITA volunteers provide a vital service in a secure and welcoming environment:

  • 98% of participants were satisfied with the services they received.
  • 99% of participants would recommend our program to friends and family.

Quotes from those we serve:

“This service made tax preparations stress-free especially for my first time paying taxes in Michigan. The staff was very helpful.”

“Time and ease of mind. There was some complicated items that would have taken forever to finish on my own. I can feel confident that it was done right without having to worry about any repercussions.”

“Knowledgeable people to help me with taxes. I could not afford to get help otherwise, and would not have gotten this refund money without these amazingly helpful volunteers.”

“With this service, I feel that my family is taken care of and welcomed. It helps me feel that I have people to look out for me.”

To learn more about volunteering for VITA, visit us online at uwgive.org/volunteerforvita, or contact us at vita@uwwashtenaw.org.

Training happens in December or January, and our tax services run February through early April.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
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