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Washtenaw United: VITA Tax Program Adapts To Continue Providing Tax Assistance Through The Pandemic

Emma Roeder
United Way of Washtenaw County

We are officially in the midst of tax season.  For many Washtenaw County residents, it is stressful, especially for those who have struggled financially throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.  Still, volunteers working at the United Way of Washtenaw County's VITA program are ready to provide tax advice and assistance.  VITA program manager Emma Roeder joined WEMU's David Fair for a conversation about the program's current efforts on this week's "Washtenaw United."

WEMU has partnered with the United Way of Washtenaw County to 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.'




As the VITA Program Manager, I work to ensure we can offer free, secure, and confidential tax preparation services to low income families and individuals in Washtenaw County.  The VITA program relies on the support of volunteers who go through IRS required certification and training in order to become certified VITA volunteers.  We work to provide access to VITA services across the county by partnering with other agencies, prioritizing areas of the county that have the highest levels of poverty.  A tax refund can be the largest sum of money a low income family or individual receives in a year, and can be key to maintaining and achieving financial stability.  One of the most important things we do is outreach encouraging people to file a return.  Many people with low income assume they do not need to file taxes.  And while they may not owe anything, it is likely they are missing out on important tax credits and refunds.


VITA Tax Assistance Program

VITA Program Impact Snapshot FY 2020


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 2020, our VITA volunteers prepared taxes for folks in our community!  This is their impact:

  • 1,064: Number of free tax returns filed
  • $1.75 million: Total in tax returns and credits returned to Washtenaw County
  • $1,694: Average tax refund amount
  • $266,000: Total amount saved by participants by using our free service*

*Calculated using average cost of filing a tax return at a paid preparer: $250
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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him atdfair@emich.edu

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
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