RD437 - Report on the Virginia Community Action Partnership Earned Income Tax Credit Initiative Virginia CASH Campaign - December 1, 2015

Executive Summary:

The Virginia CASH Campaign continued to offer quality free tax preparation services across the Commonwealth of Virginia to almost 32,000 taxpayers from January-April 2015. This year 25 coalitions working with community volunteers received funding from the Earned Income Tax Credit grant. VACAP distributes 100% of the funding to the coalitions. The Virginia CASH Campaign highlights include:

• Over $36.7 million in federal refunds
o Almost 32,000 federal returns filed

• Almost $13 million in EITC refunds
o Over 8,500 taxpayers claiming EITC
o $6.3 million saved in tax preparation fees

• Over $4.6 million in state refunds
o Over 25,700 state returns filed

Compared to 2013 tax year, this represents:
• 4.5% increase in number of returns filed
• 4.5% increased savings of tax return preparation fees

The modest state-funded $185,725 EITC Grant program (average grant $7,400) resulted in 1,198 volunteers working with 25 coalitions to provide free tax preparation and financial education services at 131 sites throughout Virginia. This tax season a number of coalitions partnered with Affordable Health Care Navigators to assist consumers with making smart health insurance choices and correct filing of income tax returns. More coalitions are offering Facilitated Self-Assistance which allows clients to file their own taxes where help is available if needed. The Virginia Office on Volunteerism and Community Service estimates the 2014 value of volunteer time to be $24.90 per hour. The Virginia CASH Campaign volunteers contributed over 40,000 hours of tax preparation to the program. An additional 11,000 hours were contributed for tax training. This equates to over $1.2 million value to the program and communities where these volunteers live and work. Grant funds leverage almost five times the amount in volunteer time.

The Virginia Community Action Partnership (VACAP) EITC Initiative supports community groups and coalitions throughout Virginia that provide free tax preparation services and promote financial stability, savings and asset building to modest income working individuals and families. Many coalitions provide free financial education programs. The Virginia CASH Campaign (Creating Assets, Savings and Hope) gives the program an identity that is used by the coalitions to engage community partners in their work.

In September 2014, VACAP co-hosted The Common Cents Conference with Maryland CASH in Bethesda, Maryland. The two-day conference brought brought together over 150 free tax program practitioners to learn about pending changes in the tax laws, implications of the Affordable Care Act, and financial stability tools and resources.

The EITC grant was announced at Common Cents and completed proposals were due at the VACAP office on October 21, 2014. Twenty-five grant recipients were notified of successful proposals on November 14, 2014 and funds were disbursed on November 18, 2014. Each coalition submitted a budget and plan as to how the grant funds were to be used throughout the year. The largest funding allocation is for personnel costs (64%).

Coalition costs for printing and supplies and equipment for marketing, education and outreach materials totaled 12% of the total budgets. Advertising was about 7% of the total. Travel to meetings and conferences totaled about 6%. Other smaller amounts were used for rent, telephone, training, volunteer recognition and administrative costs.

VACAP maintains a website dedicated to the CASH Campaign. www.vaeitc.org provides timely information to EITC partners, clients and funders throughout the year, but especially during tax filing season. Coalition information, data, flyers, asset building links, news articles, PSAs and funding resource information are readily available for viewing and download. This key component links all coalitions and assists in communication and sharing best practices. Between December 2014 and April 2015, the site averaged 1,421 page views per month with an average of 1,845 visits per month. During the rest of the year, the site averages over 1,397 page views per month. VACAP encourages its coalition members to share tools and resources, enabling them to work more efficiently and serve more clients.