Tax season is always a headache. The forms, the numbers, do you file as a household or individual? Do you qualify for one of the seemingly thousands of different Tax credits? Do you file online or by mail? The forms themselves seem specifically designed to confuse and baffle. They leave you with a sense that maybe you ticked the wrong box, that carries on for weeks after. Some of us forego the stress and pay for others to prepare our taxes for us, buying the peace of mind of knowing if anything goes wrong, it wasn't our fault.
The headache of tax returns often leads to many people filing wrong records, meaning they end up paying higher levels of tax than they should or do not receive the refunds or credits that they are eligible for. This has the largest impact on low-income households already struggling to make ends meet. A low tax return, or even worse, a tax bill can become the last straw pushing households down the spiral of debt and soaring bills towards poverty that we see so often within the ALICE community of Muskegon.
That’s where VITA comes in. VITA has had a site at Sacred Suds for many years, helping low-income individuals and households file correctly and get the returns they’re entitled to and need, helping pay their bills and put food on the table. Other such sites included Baker College, Goodwill Industries, Muskegon Heights Library and Tanglewood Park.
Charles Fritz and Richard Olson are part of the VITA team based at Sacred Suds through tax season, volunteering a day a week for 11 weeks, using their skills to help their community. This year they helped 126 households and individuals with an average income of $12,703 receive an average of $771 in federal and state returns. For a total of $131,626 returned to our core city neighbors. When combined with the efforts of the other sites in Muskegon a total of $2,198,802 was returned to low-income households in Muskegon.
So on behalf of our neighbors and community, we would like to say a big THANK YOU to the volunteers like Charles and Richard who worked so hard this year, helping the hardworking families and individuals of Muskegon navigate the quagmire of filing taxes and collect the refunds that they deserve.