Tarrant County families received more than $5 million through Earned Income Tax Credits this year, thanks to Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Centers operated by United Way of Tarrant County and its partners.
For the third consecutive year, the VITA centers increased the number of free tax returns filed, total refund dollars and Earned Income Tax Credits claimed to help low-income working families and the local economy.
Trained volunteers at 14 sites in Fort Worth, Arlington, Grapevine and North Richland Hills helped families earning less than $53,000 to prepare and file their tax returns and claim all eligible tax credits.
The free centers are part of United Way’s Earn Well initiative to help low-income working families gain financial stability. Lead partners are Catholic Charities, the city of Fort Worth and Foundation Communities.
A total of 7,033 returns were filed yielding $11,477,045 in refunds, up from 5,198 returns and $10,027,433 last year. Of this year’s amount, $5,164,314 was Earned Income Tax Credits, up 25 percent from the $4.14 million in EITC claims filed at the centers in 2014.
Additionally, 511 people agreed either to put part of their income tax return in a savings account or buy a savings bond, up from 316 people last year. Families were encouraged to use 30 percent of their refund to pay off debt, 40 percent for something enjoyable such as a vacation and 30 percent for savings.
A total of 237 VITA volunteers contributed 6,237 hours serving as tax preparers, intake specialists, interpreters and greeters. Their service had a value of $153,804, according to the national organization Independent Sector.
Larry Klos of Fort Worth volunteered the most hours this year. He helped prepare taxes for 225 hours.
Volunteers came from six companies and seven area colleges and universities. The University of Texas at Arlington logged the most volunteer hours accumulated by a participating educational institution at 568 hours.