For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Candice Tang/Juliana Minsky, 805/687-3322
Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara Tax Assistance Program Results in More Than $1.2 Million in Refunds to Local Low-Income Individuals and Families
Record results from ninth year of free program; total refunds up 15% over 2009 tax season
May 12, 2010, Santa Barbara, CA— The Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara announced today a record number of people served and tax refund total during the organization’s 2010 tax season Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. 2010 marks the ninth year that the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara has provided free tax preparation and filings services to its residents and to all eligible members of the community. This year the Housing Authority’s trained VITA volunteers assisted over 1,173 people with tax return preparation and filing, resulting in refunds exceeding $1,188,977, the highest total ever in the history of this VITA program.
“We are especially excited about the success of our VITA program this year, because we continue to exceed our expectations, despite these tough economic times,” said Frank Quezada, Resident Services Supervisor for the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara. “The resources and education we are able to provide to the community are now more important than ever.”
The 2010 results marked an increase from 2009 when the Housing Authority’s VITA program filed over 972 returns, securing $1,028,453.31 in refunds.
The Housing Authority offered free income tax preparation in English and Spanish, through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, to low-income families, seniors, the disabled and handicapped with earnings up to $49,000 depending on their tax status. One of the goals of the program is to help individuals claim any tax credits they are entitled to for the tax year.
Quezada notes some trends from the 2010 tax season included: questions about how the federal Making Work Pay Tax Credit would affect tax filing. Making Work Pay resulted in larger net paychecks for many wage earners, but also resulted in some confusion for taxpayers at end of year filing. The Housing Authority also saw an increase in reported unemployment benefits, and an increase in retirement account closures.
As in years past, the Housing Authority’s Income Tax Preparation Centers are a collaborative effort. The Housing Authority provides the supervision, staff, locations, internet access, materials and supplies for the tax centers and the Internal Revenue Service provides the training, software and technical support. United Way of Santa Barbara County provided a grant to purchase computer equipment to expand the program’s services this year.
“We are grateful to our volunteer team and community partners who make our VITA program possible – with their dedication and support; we are able to provide equal access to those in our community who might otherwise not receive the tax benefits for which they are entitled,” said Quezada.
There were 14 trained volunteer tax preparers from local non-profits and businesses including: the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara, the Housing Authority’s Family Self-Sufficiency program, Santa Barbara Bank & Trust, Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV), Santa Barbara City College, Housing Authority residents, private citizens and the Internal Revenue Service, and seven Housing Authority staff and interns operating the program this year.
The VITA free tax assistance program is one of a number of programs and services the Housing Authority offers to its residents and the community as part of its commitment to promote financial literacy and independence.
Companies or organizations interested in participating in the Housing Authority’s VITA program or other financial literacy programs, please contact the Housing Authority’s Department of Resident Services at (805) 897-1044.
The Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara is a local public agency created for the purpose of providing safe, decent, and quality affordable housing and supportive services to eligible persons with limited incomes, through a variety of federal, state, local and private resources. Please visit the website at www.hacsb.org.