Columbia’s working poor need help with the completion of their annual tax returns. For many, the tax return, with its earned income and childcare credits, is a roadblock to receiving a much-needed tax refund that often represents 25 percent of a family’s annual income.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) volunteers help Midlands’ households by ensuring individuals claim all deductions and credits available. For example, the federal Earned Income Credit (EIC)—one of the most powerful poverty-fighting safety net programs in the country—can provide eligible families with three or more qualifying children up to a $6,269 credit. Sites also provide support in helping families access the new South Carolina Earned Income Tax Credit, which is being phased in starting this year. The new credit leverages the federal EITC in the communities that need it the most. Full-time SC residents making low- to moderate-incomes will start to receive a nonrefundable credit during the 2018 filing season. The new credit will be phased in an amount equal to one hundred twenty-five percent of the federal EITC, between now and 2023.

The Cooperative Ministry is recruiting 200 volunteers to serve at least one two-hour shift per week from late January through April 15, 2018. Free volunteer training is provided by Internal Revenue Service community partners in November and December. New volunteers – even those with no prior tax knowledge – are invited to attend classroom instruction suitable for beginners. For tax professionals or experienced volunteers, an online training and certification tool is available. Volunteers of all ages are welcome, but all volunteers must be comfortable using a computer.

Volunteers will be serving at one of 18 locations throughout 8 counties in the Midlands.

“Each year, thousands of Midlands’ residents seek this valuable volunteer service,” said Jessica Grote, VITA director at The Cooperative Ministry. “Through the seasonal work of these special volunteers, we are able to see millions of dollars returned to the pockets of working families. At the same time, volunteers are strengthening our community and sharpening or learning new skills.”

In 2016, more than 160 volunteers helped file more than 7,600 federal and state returns, bringing more than $3 million in federal tax refunds back to the local community. The VITA program at The Cooperative Ministry is entering its 10th year and has brought millions of dollars in refunds to Midlands Area households.

Learn more at www.coopmin.org/how-we-help/vita.

The Cooperative Ministry is a nonprofit organization that helps the working poor through crisis assistance and sustainability programs. Learn more about The Cooperative Ministry coopmin.org