San Diego City College expands help for veterans with their taxes
February 22, 2021 |
San Diego City College has launched a new initiative to expand free tax preparation services to low-income veterans in San Diego. This is a collaborative effort with Home Start and made possible with support from Citi.
San Diego is home to nearly 250,000 military veterans. Many of them face extreme difficulties after leaving military service, including financial ones. A survey conducted by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling found that service members today are twice as likely not to be able to pay all their bills on time than they were in 2014 (34% vs. 16% in 2014), and about 1 in 10 (11% vs. 3% in 2014) say they currently have debts in collection. Fifty-seven percent of Veterans’ spouses/partners believe their financial situation will get better in next 5 years, while 36% say it will at least stay the same.
It is therefore not surprising that, with the high cost of housing, utilities and transportation, the unemployment rate for San Diego veterans among the highest in the U.S., the median annual income for Veterans at $57,221 – 72% of the County, and with one in ten of our region’s homeless population are veterans, only 5% of clients of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites identified as veteran.
Tens of thousands of these veterans could benefit in a big way financially this tax season by taking advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
From February 12 through April 15, SDCC’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) tax center* and Home Start’s VITA Program will offer free virtual services specifically targeting veterans to ensure eligible filers receive their Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
The Internal Revenue Service estimates that nearly one in five eligible to receive the EITC do not claim it. In 2020, nearly 3 million eligible workers and families in California received about $6.4 billion in EITC, with an average amount of EITC about $2,297. In San Diego County, 160,625 eligible filers received over $29.4 million in CalEITC, which is nearly 8% of all filers. The amount of unclaimed EITC was $1.8 billion that could have helped nearly 1 million working families and other eligible filers in California, and 45,304 eligible in San Diego.
“The VITA program at San Diego City College exemplifies the definition of social justice and equity as it helps low income people in our community improve their economic situation through partaking participating in tax refund opportunities often not pursued,” said SDCC President Dr. Ricky Shabazz.
Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, praised the campaign.
“One of my proudest achievements to date as an elected official is creating a state Earned Income Tax Credit in 2015 to supplement the federal EITC. As a daughter, niece, and sibling of military veterans, it is especially fulfilling to be part of this initiative that is serving those that have served our country,” Atkins said. “My legislation was about ensuring social and economic justice
for all families. It’s in everyone’s interest to make sure these refunds aren’t left on the table, especially during these difficult economic times resulting from the pandemic. I want to thank San Diego City College and their partners for the commitment to our veterans.”
The San Diego City College Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) tax clinic program staff will lead the Veterans “Peer-to-Peer” EITC efforts, with support from Citi, to expand services into the Veteran population. The VITA site offers free tax help to people who generally make $57,000 or less, military, persons with disabilities, and other eligible taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals.
“San Diego City College will transform lives through their “Peer-to-Peer” Earned Income Tax Credit Program. This program will help veterans receive the benefits they deserve and create a new generation of tax preparers who will help our entire community,” said Mayor Todd Gloria.
“Free tax preparation services and the Earned Income Tax Credit are vital tools to help eligible workers gain financial stability,” said Ruth Christopherson, Colonel (Retired) and SVP Citi Community Relations. “As a veteran, I know first-hand how much it helps to build trust and work with other veterans, which is why this program is so special. By pairing veterans with their peers to help file taxes, we increase awareness of free tax preparation services to ensure that eligible filers maximize their refunds.”
SDCC Alumni encourage volunteerism.
“After serving in the Marines, I wanted to continue to serve my community,” said Mike Tursi. “The VITA program at San Diego City College allowed me to give back while gaining valuable experiences in tax preparation and personal communication.”
“San Diego City College has given me so much, including the opportunity to volunteer for the VITA Tax Program at San Diego City College for several years. The experience inspired me to open two facilities to be able to participate in the VITA program in 2021,” said U.S Marine Corps/U.S. Army Veteran Michael Spencer. “I believe this is a great program to be a part for service to the community.”
"Everyone in our community deserves to know about important programs they may be eligible for, like the Earned Income Tax Credits. Our mission is to provide equitable and easy access to critical services that help people build healthy and sustainable lives. We are proud to support the veterans EITC campaign to educate veterans and their families about the benefits they earned and other programs available to them,” said William York, President and CEO of 211 San Diego.