We are sharing what we and our partners have been learning through reflection in our Looking Back, Moving Forward blog series. This series is part of our Reflection, Analysis, and Planning (RAP) Process, which the Foundation is engaging in as our Moving the Needle (MTN) 2.0 strategic plan draws to a close and we prepare for what comes next.
Tax Day is around the corner, but unlike other changes of season, there’s very little festivity. We don’t put up IRS decorations on the lawn. There’s no favorite Tax Season pie baking in the oven. No holiday newsletter bragging on your claimed dependents. No line of kids at the mall waiting to get their picture with an accountant in a colorful suit.
For some people, though, this is a season of celebration. Tax Season is one of the most exciting moments of the year for families in every community, including yours.
It’s About Money
The vast majority of low-income families get a tax refund every year. The amount of money they get back during tax season can represent as much as 30 percent of their income for the year. Think about that. What if a third of your paycheck was held until one day a year? It would mean the difference between living below the poverty line and getting your head above water. It would be life-changing and scary. Your kids would depend on that day. It could make or break you. How would you make the most of it?
It’s About Help
Tax Day is stressful even for those of us who have filed our own taxes for years. Documents with names like “1040” and “Schedule A” and “Form 2441” were not designed with stress-reduction in mind. Paying an expert to do it for you isn’t cheap either.The average cost for a simple return is over $260. That’s money paid to get money back. That’s money that could go toward rent, groceries, school supplies, or new pairs of shoes for the kids.
That’s why Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) is so important. Nonprofits and individual volunteers provide free tax assistance to the families that need it most. It’s a program sponsored by the IRS to help low and moderate income families. It’s based in communities. It’s certified and safe. It’s free. Most importantly, it helps people get back what they deserve from their hard-earned dollars and save the resources they need for a brighter future.
It’s About the Future
Tax Day is when bills get paid, when the car gets repaired, when families can apply for student aid and put aside some dollars in the bank. Many of the organizations doing VITA in Arkansas are also helping families think about the future. There's support for the family who wants to buy a house. There’s assistance for a mom who wants to finish her degree. There’s information for a grandfather who is planning for retirement. And there's coaching for a couple trying to manage their debts and repair their credit.
A tax refund alone can make for a good Tax Day. When part of that money goes toward a first home, a college education, financial health, or a secure future, Tax Day becomes life-changing. When volunteers help thousands of families achieve these life-changing moments, it can lift entire communities. That’s cause for celebration!
What You Can Do
What if you helped make Tax Day a life-changing holiday for a family in your community? Find out by clicking here for a list of organizations in Arkansas that need volunteers to help families with taxes and sign yourself up. You don’t need to be an accountant or a tax expert. They offer training, they offer support, and in exchange for just a few hours from a few weekends, you can make Tax Day the best day of someone’s year.
So, how are you you going to celebrate Tax Day? I hope you’ll consider volunteering. Maybe you’ll even bake a Tax Day pie.