Hawai`i VITA & Financial Empowerment Program

Hawai`i’s VITA & Financial Empowerment Program provides free tax assistance to low-to-moderate income Hawaii residents which results in an immediate savings to each taxpayer of at least $200. Since 2006, we have saved 32,674 Hawaii taxpayers more than $5.8 Million in tax preparation fees. VITA is much more than just another program for low-to-moderate income households.

The program also offers a self-preparation tool called MyFreeTaxes which allows anyone earning less than $62,000 to prepare and electronically file both their federal and state returns for free. Most “free” sites will allow a person to prepare a free federal return but will charge for the state return. MyFreeTaxes is a service is provided by United Way Worldwide through a grant from the Walmart Foundation.

In addition, the program provides an aspect of financial education which is not being offered by any other financial literacy program –  how to prevent tax-related debts. For tax year 2012, the most current year for which the IRS has complete information, 47,160 Hawaii residents who earned less than $50,000 owed the IRS more than $51 Million in taxes after filing their returns. We have determined that approximately 90% of balance due returns can be avoided if taxpayers are aware of some very simple tax concepts that anyone can learn but no one is teaching.

The VITA and Financial Empowerment Program also promotes the “Learn Early. Live Smarter.” initiative, which recruits and trains high school students to become certified volunteer tax return preparers. Since this initiative began a few years ago, we have trained nearly 100 high school students on Oahu who received IRS certification and prepared tax returns, under supervision, at Leeward Community College.  Taxes affect every aspect of a person’s life and learning basic tax law early in life will help our youth avoid the mistakes that could lead to serious debt in the future.

Click here for more information on these initiatives and the VITA program.