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County Commission Chairman Jean Monestime, United Way, Branches, City of Miami, Miami Dade College and the IRS partner to offer free tax help and financial stability services

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites are now open and offering free tax preparation

 

The Federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) lifts more Americans out of poverty than any other national program. In Miami-Dade, the IRS estimates that 17 percent who qualify aren’t claiming it. Today, a coalition led by Branches, operator of the United Way Center for Financial Stability, gathered to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the national EITC Awareness Day at the Miami-Dade County Commission Chamber. Branches is once again the official IRS grantee to run and coordinate the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program in Miami-Dade.

Karina Ron, director of the United Way Center for Financial Stability, announced that last year the coalition filed 8,700 tax returns at more than 50 VITA sites. Miami-Dade residents who used VITA services saved more than $1.5 million in tax preparation fees and received more than $11.3 million in refunds.

For 2016, Brent McLaughlin, executive director of Branches, announced that the community-wide VITA coalition has 21 partners, hosting more than 50 VITA sites. The goal is to process 9,700 income tax returns, saving Miami-Dade taxpayers an estimated $1.5 million in fees, and brining $12 million back in refunds. At each site, IRS-certified volunteers will provide free tax preparation services to low and moderate income families who qualify.

Joining them at the podium were: Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman Jean Monestime; Miami-Dade County Deputy Mayor Russell Benford; United Way President and CEO, Harve A. Mogul; City of Miami, Special Projects Administrator, William Porro; Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus, Chair of School of Business, Dr. Ana Cruz; and IRS Territory Manager, Maritza R. Michaud.

In addition to raising awareness for tax credits and free tax preparation sites, Chairman Monestime spoke about an upcoming initiative, “Bank On Miami, which will be launched in February was created to encourage financial institutions to develop innovative products and solutions designed specifically to help unbanked and underbanked individuals,” he said.

Additionally, Harve A. Mogul announced, “United Way, the City of Miami, Branches and Catalyst Miami received a grant to develop high quality, standardized training curriculum for financial coaches and put systems in place so that all the partners can share information… Ultimately improving the integration and quality of financial stability services in Miami-Dade.” This initiative was made possible by a grant from the Corporation for Enterprise Development, a national organization that empowers low to moderate income households with the tools needed to build and grow assets.

The IRS estimates that 80 percent of tax filers in Miami-Dade will qualify for VITA services. A single person who earns $14,820; a couple who has one child and earns about $44,651; or a family with three children that earns up to $53,267.

Day-to-day management of VITA sites is provided by a myriad of partner organizations, including businesses, schools, non-profits, churches and government. To find a VITA site near you, call Switchboard of Miami at 305-358-HELP(4357), dial 211 or visit myfreetaxes.com.