Thursday, November 29, 2018

Give back to your community through VITA!

Six years ago, the Internal Revenue Service asked us to partner with them and our local community to expand the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, together. VITA is free tax preparation and filing for individuals or families making less than $55k a year. The goal is to maximize tax credits and refunds, to put more money back in the pockets of low-income working families. 

This is truly life changing for some residents, like Maria. Maria, the divorced mother of a nine-year old child, tried to do her taxes herself and discovered she owed money to the IRS. She had made an appointment to have her taxes done in South County through the VITA program and almost didn't show up, because she couldn't afford to pay what she thought she owed.

With the help of a VITA volunteer, Maria actually wound up with a refund of $4,160. Maria was overwhelmed with emotion upon receiving this life-changing news. Her car was in disrepair and this refund enabled her to get her car back on the road, with money left over to pay some bills! 

Berkshire United Way will be offering VITA services at three locations this coming tax season—Berkshire South Regional Community Center and Berkshire Community College, South Campus in Great Barrington, and October Mountain Financial Advisors in Lee. We are currently looking for volunteers to fill several roles, so we can serve as many people as possible.

If you do not know much about taxes, don’t fret! Berkshire United Way offers training for tax preparers and reviewers; there are also other positions, which don’t require tax certification, such as greeting clients and serving as an interpreter. The hours are flexible, the training is free, and the time commitment is entirely up to you.

I invite you to email me at or give me a call at 413.442.6948 x36 if you are interested in giving back to your community as a VITA volunteer. If you are interested in helping, but don’t live or work in south county, we can connect you with our VITA partners at additional sites throughout the county, including the Hilltown Community Development Corporation, Berkshire Community Action Council, Williams College, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (in conjunction with their Business Department), and Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity.

I look forward to hearing from you!

James Swinchoski
Economic Prosperity VISTA

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