Brown Secures $18 Million in Funding to Help Ohioans Prepare and File Taxes for Free

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program Helps Individuals Making $55,000 or Less Prepare and File Taxes; This Week, Brown Announced ‘Cost-of-Living’ Refund to Help Working Families as Tax Refunds are Lower than Expected for Many Families

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced that the government spending package passed by the Senate yesterday includes $18 million to support free tax preparation sites that help individuals and families file their income tax returns through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. Brown and former Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) pushed for an amendment to the Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill to increase funding for VITA sites, and the final package includes additional funding, which Brown secured, for the program. The package passed the House last night, and Brown is calling on President Trump to sign it into law.   

“It should be easy for working Americans to file and claim their hard-earned money without having to hire an expensive tax preparer,” said Brown. “Volunteer tax preparers provide critical assistance to those who need a hand filing so they can make sure they are receiving all the tax credits they are eligible for and getting the return they’ve earned. They also save taxpayers money by cutting down on administrative costs.”

 Prosperity Now, an organization that seeks to help Americans -- especially people of color and Americans with limited incomes -- reach financial security and prosperity, applauded Brown’s work to increase funding for the VITA Program. 

“Now more than ever, tax filers need a safe, secure and free resource to meet their federal obligation to file their returns and access vital refunds and tax credits, such as the EITC, that keep them going throughout the year,” said Andrea Levere, President of Prosperity Now. “Prosperity Now is grateful to Senator Brown for his leadership increasing VITA by 20 percent in funding for FY 2019 which will allow VITA sites to expand on this important tax time moment in these volatile times. Paid tax preparers charge working families an average of $273 for one tax return and consumer protections are being watered down at the CFPB. VITA uses IRS-certified volunteers to put money back in the pockets of hard-working, low-income households, returning $1.8 billion to the economy through their refunds.” 

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax help to people who make $55,000 or less, persons with disabilities, the elderly, and limited English speakers by helping prepare and file their income tax returns.

VITA sites aren’t just a lifeline for those who cannot afford a paid tax preparer – they also have a strong record for accuracy and help reduce IRS administrative costs. According to the IRS, returns claiming the EITC prepared by VITA preparers have a much higher rate of accuracy compared to those prepared by unenrolled paid tax preparers. VITA sites are also more likely to file electronically, helping to save taxpayers money in the process.

This week, Brown joined U.S. Representatives Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) to announce plans to reintroduce legislation that will give American workers a ‘Cost-of-Living Refund’ to compensate for decades of rising costs and stagnant wages. The members announced their legislation this week as news reports indicate that Americans are receiving smaller refunds than expected under President Trump’s tax law. 

The bills Brown, Khanna and Watson Coleman plan to introduce this week would roughly double the EITC for working families and increase the credit for childless workers almost sixfold. Under the proposal, the maximum tax credit available increases to $12,349 for families with three or more qualifying children; $10,976 with two qualifying children; $6,370 with one qualifying child; and $3,054 with no qualifying children. Currently, a family of three can receive a maximum credit of $6,431 and someone with no children can receive at most a $519 tax credit. 

The legislation also includes new language to expand the credit so that individuals taking care of children or aging parents can claim the credit as well as students who are working to support themselves as they pursue their education.