United Way of Northwest Louisiana, in partnership with the Internal Revenue Service, reports that during this most recent tax filing season, 6,279 households throughout Northwest Louisiana were served through the Volunteer Tax Assistance Program (VITA). Those filings resulted in $8.4 million in refunds to local residents, up six percent from what was filed in the previous filing year.

The VITA Program allows any household of one or more persons, with a total income of $54,000 or less to have their tax returns prepared by certified volunteers at no charge. This year, eleven VITA sites operated throughout Caddo, Bossier, Webster and Natchitoches Parish.

The free service saved local taxpayers an estimated $1.5 million in tax-preparation fees, assuming tax-filing companies charge an average of $250 per return. The breakdown of returns are as follows:

Caddo and Bossier Parish:

5,645 returns prepared = $7.6 million returned back to the community; $1,411,250 saved in preparation fees.

Natchitoches Parish:

213 returns prepared = $264,076 returned back to the community; 53,250 saved in tax preparation fees.

Webster Parish:

421 returns prepared = $521,777 returned back to the community; $105,250 saved in tax preparation fees.

“VITA is just one of the United Way programs that are imperative to helping ALICE families become more financially stable,” said Rashida Dawson, Financial Stability Program Director at UWNWLA. “We look forward to providing this service to the Northwest Louisiana community each year.”

ALICE, which stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, are hardworking residents who are struggling to make ends meet, have little or no savings, and are one emergency away from falling into poverty. In Northwest Louisiana, 45% of all households are classified as ALICE.

A critical component of this program is the volunteers who to help execute VITA. United Way is seeking volunteers for next year’s tax season. If you are interested in learning more about this volunteer opportunity, contact United Way’s Community Engagement Coordinator, Jennifer Horton, at 318-677-2504 or volunteer@unitedwaynwla.org.