RD570 - Report on the Virginia Community Action Partnership Earned Income Tax Credit Initiative Virginia CASH Campaign – December 1, 2019

Executive Summary:

The Virginia CASH Campaign continued to offer quality free tax preparation services across the Commonwealth of Virginia to over 33,300 taxpayers from January-April 2019. This year 21 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:

• $32.4 million in federal refunds
o Over 33,300 federal returns filed

• $10.5 million in EITC refunds
o Almost 7,000 taxpayers claiming EITC
o Over $7 million saved in tax preparation fees

• $4.8 million in state refunds
o Over 24,600 state returns filed

• 1,400 Volunteers
o Almost 48,000 hours of tax preparation time

The modest state-funded $185,725 EITC Grant program (average grant $8,800) resulted in almost 1,400 volunteers working with 22 coalitions (one coalition did not apply for funding) to provide free tax preparation and financial education services at 121 sites throughout Virginia. Many coalitions continue to partner 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 Independent Sector estimates the 2018 value of volunteer time nationally is $25.43 per hour. In Virginia that value is $27.50/hour. The Virginia CASH Campaign volunteers contributed over 47,000 hours of tax preparation to the program. An additional 1,000 hours were contributed for tax training and financial education. This equates to over $1.3 million in value to the program and communities where these volunteers live and work. Grant funds leverage over six times the amount of 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. 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.

To kick off the new round of the EITC grant program, VACAP hosted the CASH Campaign’s Fall Classic at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in September 2018. The day of workshops for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance programs consisted of seminars ranging from IRS tax updates and advocating for policy changes to volunteer management, recruitment and retention to managing multiple generations at work (baby-boomers to Gen Z). 56 attendees were on hand to hear welcoming remarks from Delegate VanValkenburg.

The EITC grant was announced at the Fall Classic and proposals were due at the VACAP office on October 23, 2018. Twenty-one grant recipients were notified of successful proposals on November 20, 2018 and funds were disbursed by December 3, 2018. 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 (60%).

Coalition costs for printing, supplies and equipment totaled over ten percent of the budget. Advertising was about eight percent of the total. Twelve percent was spent on volunteer recruitment, management and training, travel to meetings and conferences. Other smaller amounts were used for rent, telephone and administration 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 October 2018 and May 2019, the site averaged 1,282 page views per month with an average of 897 visits per month. During the same time frame, the site 391 had new visitors per month. VACAP encourages its Virginia CASH coalition members to share tools and resources, enabling them to work more efficiently and serve more clients.

Keeping taxpayers compliant is one of Virginia CASH’s most important functions. If a taxpayer gets into trouble with the IRS or state department of revenue, all other efforts to help improve their financial situation are destined to fail.