What is VITA?
The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA) is one of several free programs offered by the IRS to assist low to moderate-income families who cannot prepare their own tax returns. This program generally services those individuals who have an average income of $66,000 and below. Trained and certified community volunteers assist individuals with credits such as Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Credit, Education Credits, and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled. In addition to free tax return preparation assistance, many sites also offer free electronic filing (e-filing). Those filers taking advantage of e-file generally receive their refunds in half the time compared to returns filed on paper.
MCTC through the Years
We started with a simple idea. Most tax returns with income of $66,000 are not complex. The 2018 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act further reduced the complexity as the tax provisions impacts low-moderate income families. There should be no charge to prepare these returns. The fees the low-moderate income pay for the preparation of these returns should remain with our clients to meet their basic needs. The fees paid often border on predatory.
Metro-St. Louis Community Tax Coalition’s (MCTC) goals for its client base is financial stability and independence, improving the economic well-being of low and moderate-income individuals, families, and communities by building a movement to dramatically increase access to tax credits, benefits and asset-building resources;
We accomplish this
- through financial education and consumer training;
- by providing a high-quality tax assistance program and representation to low and moderate-income families;
- by educating low and moderate-income families with respect to their tax obligations under our voluntary compliance system
Our model is faith-based. Our permanent locations are based in churches. We enlist the help of volunteer professionals, church members with spiritual gifts, and friends to offer free, confidential tax preparation services to claim available credits and refunds. We partner with financial institutions that assist our clients to preserve and protect their assets by reducing predatory practices.
Desmond Leong, MCTC director and CPA, retired from the Internal Revenue Service with 38 years’ work experience in the Examination and Information Technology Divisions. Desmond began in 1986 as a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) volunteer.
Our program relies on the enthusiasm and devotion of our volunteers, community partners, and sponsors. Our most valued asset is our volunteers. Our volunteer retention rate is upwards of 95%. We accomplish this with a robust training & mentoring program. 25% of our volunteers have IRS experience as current active or retired employees. A number of our team includes licensed CPAs and enrolled agents.
Since 2004, we have prepared over 90,000 tax returns and returned over $135 million to the community in the form of tax credits such as earned income, child tax education, rebates, and state property tax credits.
The first three MCTC locations in 2004 were at Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church, New City Fellowship, and the Omega Center. MCTC now prepares free tax returns at 28 locations throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area with a presence in IL – St. Clair County, and MO – City of St. Louis, St. Louis County, St Charles County, five rural counties in Northwest Missouri.
The Metro St. Louis Tax Coalition would like to thank each individual and each company that has devoted their time and resources over the last 18 years. You have been a tremendous help in making this organization what it is today.