Free Tax Returns

Through a new grant awarded in October, United Way partners will deliver more financial stability services, including income tax assistance and access to low income tax credits to assist families in Northern Santa Barbara County. Northern Santa Barbara County United Way (NSBC United Way) has been awarded a Federal Grant as a partner to assist 1500 families in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. This IRS grant, in the amount of $51,875, enables our regional VITA effort to extend services to underserved populations in hardest-to-reach areas, both urban and non-urban; increase the capacity to file returns electronically; heighten quality control; provide enhanced training of volunteers; and improve significantly the accuracy rate of returns prepared at the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites!

2023 marks the 18th year our United Way has coordinated the VITA program by training and certifying dozens of bilingual volunteers annually. NSBC United Way is the lead agency in the Coalition, founded in 2007, a group of partnering organizations including Allan Hancock Community Education Center (AHC), Elwin Mussell Senior Center, Oceano Senior Center, Oceano Elementary School, City of Santa Maria, City of Lompoc, and California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), and United Way of San Luis Obispo, along with and dozens of corporate partners.

The Coalition expanded its reach to those who could not make it to a physical site with the introduction of www.myfreetaxes.org Tax preparation centers are established at up to six partner locations, all of which are staffed by certified volunteers, and managed by tax and program professionals. Tax filing is completely free, for both State and Federal returns, unlike many regional tax centers that charge exorbitant fees. My Free Taxes offers free service for families with incomes up to $73,000.

As CalEITC+ Free Tax Preparation Assistance (FTPA) grantees, the Coalition has modeled a continuous process of program design, implementation, and evaluation. Each year, the Coalition partners serve thousands of low-income individuals. Grant period runs from October 1, 2022 through September 30th, 2023, and may be renewed.

Over 75 partners which includes and is not limited to: other nonprofits; faith-based groups; local, state, and federal government; for-profit businesses or corporations, housing consortiums/collaborations, school districts, institutions of post-secondary education/training; financial/banking institutions; health service institutions, and statewide associations or collaborations. More than 50% of all Coalition participants served are Hispanic or Latino, and more than 35% of these individuals primarily speak Spanish in the home. Recognizing the success of the collaborative and determining areas of needed improvement, the Coalition steadily expands while maintaining a high level of team efficacy.

Low-income families are the primary focus of the Coalition and limited English-speaking families are the secondary focus. Coalition members have a rich history of working with the underserved low-income populations in Santa Barbara (SB) and San Luis Obispo (SLO) counties and experience providing financial education and asset building.

The NSBC United Way has been providing services to this target population for over 60 years; United Way SLO for over 45 years; and Allan Hancock College for over 100 years. There are two groups of volunteers who are involved in the FTPA program:
1) Community Volunteers – More than 90 Volunteers complete 60 hours of tax preparation service and complete the community college internship FTPA course (Allan Hancock College) or self-study and attend FTPA workshop trainings (community volunteers also include those who are non-certified to prepare taxes and aid as screeners/greeters, and
2) Cal Poly Volunteers – Students from the university who travel to the SM AHC site and the Lucia Mar Adult Education Center in Oceano for 6 of the 8 Saturdays of service, 30 students per week, working five-hour shifts.

Learn more about volunteering – reach out to us: Volunteering Inquiry