WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced that the Taxpayer First Act includes a provision he authored to support free tax preparation sites that help individuals and families file their income tax returns. Brown’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Permanence Act was included in the larger Taxpayer First Act to modernize the IRS, improve taxpayer services and strengthen taxpayer protections. The Taxpayer First Act was passed by both the House and Senate last week, and now heads to the President’s desk. 

 “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.” 

Brown’s VITA bill would make permanent an IRS-administered matching grant program for volunteer tax preparation sites nationwide. There are eight current VITA grant recipient sites in Ohio, including:

  • United Way of Summit County (Akron)
  • United Way of Greater Stark County (Canton)
  • United Way of Ross County (Chillicothe)
  • United Way of Greater Cincinnati (Cincinnati)
  • United Way of Central Ohio (Columbus)
  • Ottawa County Transitional Housing (Port Clinton)
  • Potters House Ministries (Portsmouth)
  • United Way of Youngstown and Mahoning Valley (Youngstown)  

Brown first introduced his VITA Permanence Act in 2017. The VITA program offers free tax help to people who generally make $54,000 or less, persons with disabilities, the elderly, and limited English speakers by helping prepare and file their income tax returns.

During the 2019 income tax filing season, VITA programs nationwide filed more than 1.5 million federal income tax returns, including more than 419,000 returns for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). This helped Americans claim approximately $1.8 billion they’d earned over the tax year. 

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 are 98 percent accurate – the best of any in the tax preparation industry. VITA sites are also more likely to file electronically, helping to save taxpayers money in the process.