By Michael P. Walsh
Special to the Voice
West Haven Mayor Nancy R. Rossi and New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker joined members of the Connecticut Association for Human Services at the West Haven Community House on Feb. 2 to promote a free federal tax preparation program and raise awareness of the Connecticut Earned Income Tax Credit.
At the tax season kickoff, Rossi and Elicker touted the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, an initiative of the IRS that offers free tax help to people who need assistance preparing tax returns, including those who make $58,000 or less, people with disabilities and limited English-speaking taxpayers.
The event was sponsored by the Greater New Haven Family Economic Security Coalition and CAHS, which coordinates the VITA campaign in Connecticut.
Rossi and Elicker, who in their remarks complimented each other’s city initiatives, also raised awareness of the Connecticut EITC, a refundable state income tax credit for low-to-moderate-income working individuals and families. The state credit has been increased to 41.5% of the federal EITC for this tax season, officials noted.
The event’s other speakers were CAHS CEO John Merz, IRS Senior Tax Consultant Ron Peruzzi, IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service Manager Karen Mayer, Community House Executive Director Amy Guay-Macfarlane, Jennifer Heath, the president and CEO of the United Way of Greater New Haven, and Takima Robinson, the director of asset building programs at CAHS.
“At the completion of last year’s tax season, the CAHS CT VITA Coalition assisted over 10,000 taxpayers, resulting in $16 million in federal refunds and $3 million in EITC,” Merz said. “We are thrilled with those results, and we are pleased to be able to again offer qualified families and individuals free tax preparation and filing during this upcoming tax season.
“This is an important service and offers a significant savings to those who are challenged by the extra expense of tax preparation. In addition to free tax services, CAHS also offers educational programs that help build long-lasting financial stability.”
Rossi, a certified public accountant, added: “Tax assistance and financial education are both crucial in a time like this, particularly when the COVID-19 pandemic has created financial strains in our communities. The VITA program is critical in ensuring that low-to-moderate-income families properly file their taxes and get their deserved tax refunds.”
Rossi continued: “The Connecticut Association for Human Services is working hard in collaboration with Code for America to ensure that our residents get necessary tax services while staying safe during the spread of the omicron variant. I am deeply appreciative of all our trained volunteers and our funders who make this program possible, and I urge all who are eligible to sign up. I strongly support this initiative and the value it brings to the Greater New Haven area.”
Last year, trained IRS-certified VITA volunteers in Greater New Haven prepared more than 2,700 tax returns, returning $5.1 million in state and federal refunds to local families and over $930,000 in federal Earned Income Tax Credits, which officials said may have otherwise gone unclaimed.
To prevent the spread of the coronavirus, CAHS will continue its partnership with Code for America to operate a VITA online service at https://www.getyourrefund.org/en. GetYourRefund.org is a nonprofit service built by Code for America, a nonpartisan, nonpolitical charitable organization, in partnership with IRS-certified VITA sites nationwide.
The VITA online service offers the same quality services as in-person VITA sites. Taxpayers can answer intake questions and upload tax documents at https://www.getyourrefund.org/en.
Trained IRS-certified VITA volunteers will remotely prepare tax returns, speak with taxpayers to review them and file the returns with taxpayers’ consent.
For taxpayers without access or the technology to use the online service, CAHS has VITA sites in Fairfield County that offer drop-off and limited in-person services.
The Connecticut Association for Human Services, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, combines outreach into working poor communities at the neighborhood level with broad-based policy work at the state and federal levels.
Founded in 1910, CAHS is focused on helping families and children build the skills and assets they need for lasting economic success, strengthening Connecticut’s economy and improving its workforce.
CAHS, based in Hartford, is a division of Advancing Connecticut Together.