Helping working families get out of poverty and into financial stability

What could you do with $270? For many Vermonters, that’s as much or more as their monthly car payment. Families could use that money to pay their heating bill, catch up on credit card payments, see a doctor or buy new school clothes for their child.

An extra $270 is a lot of money for many low-income Vermonters – it’s also the average cost to pay a professional to prepare your taxes. When working people can’t afford the extra expense of a professional tax preparer, they sometimes choose to complete their own taxes or not file at all, missing out on the chance to receive more of their own money back and putting themselves in an even deeper financial hole.

United Way fights for the financial stability of every person in every community. That’s why United Way of Northwest Vermont is a recipient of the IRS Volunteer Tax Assistance (VITA) grant program – to help provide free tax preparation services for low- and moderate-income individuals and families, elderly taxpayers, military personnel and people with disabilities. This tax season, United Way of Northwest Vermont is partnering with CVOEO to prepare taxes for working Vermonters who made $54,000 or less in 2018, at their places of employment during tax filing season, completely free of charge.

CVOEO is a nonprofit organization serving more than 10,000 households annually by addressing the fundamental issues of economic, social and racial justice and working with people to help them achieve economic independence.

This year, United Way of Northwest Vermont is grateful for a grant award from North Country Federal Credit Union, facilitating the partnership with CVOEO to provide a site coordinator for the mobile tax program. The site coordinator manages the delivery of the mobile tax program which requires the assistance of about 14 volunteer tax preparers. The dedicated volunteers are recruited and trained by United Way to prepare taxes for qualified employees working for the employer partners of Working Bridges.

The VITA grant program is one of the largest and most successful anti-poverty initiatives in the country. Last year, more than $2.1 million in federal and state refunds and credits were returned to the Vermont community through free tax preparation assistance at VITA-approved sites. This year’s tax season is well underway, with dozens of local workers who have already filed. Here’s what several of them had to say about the program:

"Is that really my refund? This is going to make such a difference. I will finally be ready to buy my first house."

"I'm so glad you bring this program to our workplace. If I had to go to a paid preparer, it was going to cost me over $400."

"It's been such a hard year with a family loss and financial troubles. I had no idea we would be eligible for a hardship exemption for the months we couldn't afford health insurance."

"I don't have plans for this refund but I can finally have some emergency savings to help me down the road."

In addition to the mobile tax program, United Ways all around the country partner during the tax season to promote, a website where households that earned less than $66,000 during the previous year can file both federal and state tax returns completely free of charge. MyFreeTaxes, powered by H&R Block software, is the only free, national, online tax filing product offered by a nonprofit and is available to more than 100 million U.S. taxpayers annually.

Between the mobile tax program and online software at, qualified Vermonters have choices in how, when, and where they file their taxes – at their workplaces or from the comfort of their own homes.

If you have questions about how to access either of these services, or to find out if you or a loved one qualifies, dial 2-1-1 to speak to a trained specialist.

Read these seven tips to make the most of your tax refund this year.

To learn more about CVOEO, visit their website.

Alison DeFisher