Hawaii VITA

VITA stands for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance – a program that operates under the Internal Revenue Service and pursuant to which low-to-moderate income taxpayers can have their federal and state tax returns prepared and electronically filed for FREE.

The Hawaii VITA Program began in 2006 with 4 sites on Oahu and 32 volunteers. Last tax season (2017), we had over 200 volunteers working at sites on every island except Lana`i.  Thus far, our VITA volunteers have helped 43,500 Hawaii residents save more than $8.6 Million in tax preparation fees.

Volunteers are the backbone and driving force of the VITA Program. They are recruited from the community, other non-profits, for-profit organizations, and educational institutions. They are required to train and pass an IRS certification exam in order to prepare tax returns and then spend evenings and weekends from late January to mid-April preparing tax returns for eligible Hawaii residents and saving them money.

In 2014, we began our “Learn Early. Live Smarter.” initiative which focuses on recruiting and training high school students to become VITA volunteers. By participating in this initiative, students learn a valuable skill, become knowledgeable in basic tax law which will help them in the future, gain real world experience working with clients, and can improve the appeal of their resumes. Thus far, 235 students from 5 Oahu high schools have trained and obtained their IRS certification and have volunteered at VITA sites under the supervision of our site coordinators.

If you are interested in volunteering, sponsoring a VITA site, participating in our “Learn Early. Live Smarter.” initiative or would just like more information, please click here to contact us.

FINANCIAL EMPOWERMENT 

In addition to VITA, our Program offers financial literacy education which focuses on an issue that is not included in most, if not all, financial literacy courses – the prevention of tax-related debt.

Tax-related debt is a serious problem that can hinder any individual’s effort to achieve their financial goals and become self-sufficient. In 2016, 48,640 Hawaii residents who earned LESS than $50,000 owed the IRS $58.9 MILLION after filing their tax returns. This is NOT cumulative debt – this is debt for that one year and it happens every year. Sadly, most of that debt could have been avoided if people understood some very basic concepts about taxes.

As part of our educational efforts to prevent tax-related debt, we utilize this website, social media, and workshops.  However, we believe that the most effective way to prevent this type of debt is through early education.  Therefore, in 2014, we began our “Learn Early. Live Smarter.” initiative which focuses on recruiting and training high school students to become VITA volunteers. By participating in this initiative, students learn a valuable skill, become knowledgeable in basic tax law which will help them in the future, gain real world experience working with clients, and can improve the appeal of their resumes. Thus far, 235 students from 5 Oahu high schools have trained and obtained their IRS certification and have volunteered at VITA sites under the supervision of our site coordinators. We’re striving to expand this initiative Statewide.