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Getting Started with a VITA Program

Credit Union :Family
Assets :$9,900,000
Address :1000 N Avalon Blvd | Wilmington, CA 90748
Start Date :2009 (2008 Tax Season)

VITA Site User Requirements :

Tax free filing is restricted by income; for tax year 2008, it was $42,000

Rates, Fees, and Terms :

Provided at no cost

Vendors/Systems Used :

  • Technology Service Provider – Provided by Internal Revenue Service
  • United Way provided the IRS Certified Tax Training

Target Market :

Individuals and families that made under $42,000 in 2008; in particular those who qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit

Marketing Strategy :

  • The CEO of the credit union is very active in her community. Community organizations, such as the Chamber of Commerce helped her promote the program.
  • Lobby posters and newsletter inserts were used to notify members of the service

Program Results/Statistics :

  • In its first year, the credit union offered VITA services for two months, for four hours on Wednesday and 5 hours on Saturday during normal business hours
  • 37 returns were completed and filed

Member Benefits :

  • A convenient and free service for qualifying members
  • Savings to community residents whose other options may have been expensive tax preparers

Additional Information :

Lucia Moreno, the CEO of the credit union was encouraged by the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions to offer VITA services within her community. She received a federal grant that helped cover some costs, such as a computer, but the grant also required matched funds.

Moreno and a co-worker began IRS certification training in September, but she advises others to begin much sooner. She found three volunteers from a local college that became certified preparers. Moreno’s advice to other credit unions getting started is to find volunteer preparers from United Way or other community organizations.

The more difficult problem she found was setting up the center. Her credit union has a community room which was used to provide tax services. If a credit union doesn’t have the room for tax filers, she suggests partnering with another organization that can provide the room. Moreno found that scheduling appointments, following up with appointments, and quality control required full time attention. As a result, she didn’t have time to prepare tax filings. However, her tax training helped her with quality control issues. Although the credit union only did 37 returns its first year, many more filers showed up. However, many didn’t have the proper documents with them to complete the tax return. Moreno pointed out that it is important to call and remind people of appointments and what documents to bring, although she added, “The frustrating thing is that many still won’t show or won’t have the proper documents.”

Despite that frustration, she plans to offer the service again in 2010. “It’s a great service for the community and a real convenience for our members,” Moreno states.

Additional Information :

Family Credit Union started a VITA program in 2009. As a small credit union (under $10 million), the credit union learned the importance of using the services of local organizations and a college. The CEO shares the knowledge she learned from her first year.