The Columbus Community Legal Services Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program was recognized on April 23, 2020, on a phone call with Wage and Investment Commissioner Ken Corbin and Deputy Commissioner David Alito. VITA was one of 12 programs selected to be nationally recognized and the only program selected from the DMV area.
Catholic Law's VITA program is relatively small when compared to other programs in the greater D.C. area, but it has seen a consistent increase in the number of taxpayers that it serves. Both the number of community members served and the number of volunteers working in the VITA program has increased since the 2016 Tax Year. Notably, this year’s training sessions had over 100 people in attendance.
During the call, Commissioner Corbin and Deputy Alito specifically thanked VITA for moving to a completely virtual platform to continue serving the community during the pandemic.
VITA site coordinator, Nora Senyk shared, “After realizing that our VITA program was needed now more than ever, we transitioned to a completely virtual model to conform with stay-at-home orders and social distancing at the end of March/early April. We recognized the significant economic impact COVID-19 was having on our community, thus our initial goal was to get taxpayers the refunds they may be due i.e. cash back into their pockets. Now that the government has started to issue Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) we have made a concentrated effort to assist non-filers (such as the religious community who have taken vows of poverty) and the homeless population provide the IRS their payment information to ensure they receive their EIP.
Moving to a completely virtual platform has required us to utilize technology new to us. Through the use of video conferencing, we are able to safely communicate with taxpayers and prepare their return or assist with the EIPs. Since we are completely virtual, our volunteers are able to assist taxpayers at times that are convenient for both parties.
I am thrilled that the IRS recognized our innovative virtual model, but I am so proud of our volunteers' efforts to build our program into a trusted resource for tax preparation within our community.”