HARRISBURG, Pa. (6/14/10)--Eight Pennsylvania credit unions participated in the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA) during this spring’s tax-filing, resulting in more than $2 million in federal tax refunds for state taxpayers. Nearly 2,000 Pennsylvania taxpayers had their 2009 tax returns processed through the program, said the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (Keystone Extra June 11). The IRS VITA and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Programs offer free tax help for underserved taxpayers. Trained community volunteers provide tax preparation assistance and may help with special credits, such as Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled. AmeriChoice FCU, Mechanicsburg, assisted more than 93 families in the Harrisburg area with refunds equaling $151,730, an increase of more than 25% from 2009. The credit union partnered with the United Way and the Community Action Commission to provide free tax preparation each Friday afternoon. Belco Community CU, Harrisburg, recruited 19 volunteers, 14 of whom went through a minimum of 16 hours of training to become certified tax preparers. Five others served as greeters and assisted the program. Overall, the volunteers contributed a combined total of 275 hours to the VITA program and completed 161 returns, resulting in refunds totaling $295,489. Two employees from Choice One Community FCU, Wilkes-Barre, prepared tax returns at its main office on Wednesdays and in its waterfront branch on Thursdays. They prepared 143 federal returns for total refunds of $171,444. Twenty-five taxpayers received the Earned Income Tax Credit of $43,028. At Clearview FCU of Moon Township, 18 volunteers prepared returns at eight branches and seven volunteers were located at three satellite sites. A total of 480 electronic file returns and 53 paper-filed returns provided refunds of $584,990. Seven employees at Erie (Pa.) FCU trained and were certified at the Intermediate Level to prepare tax returns. One additional employee scheduled appointments. The employee volunteers committed 185 hours of time for tax preparation. As a whole, the credit union processed 82 returns for $136,733 in refunds, in addition to 27 EITC returns totaling $45,631. Erie (Pa.) General Electric FCU completed its fifth year of volunteering for the VITA program. Its volunteers prepared 425 tax returns, with total refunds exceeding $625,000. Timberland FCU, DuBois, participated in the VITA program for the first time. The credit union’s three IRS-trained employees filed more than 60 returns at the credit union, with an average return of $1,328. They volunteered more than 100 hours. The sum of the county program was 307 returns totaling $407,812. As part of the York County Financial Stability Partnership, White Rose CU, York, agreed for the second consecutive year to prepare taxes for free at all four branches. During the 2009 tax season, credit union employees and volunteers helped prepare 369 tax returns, compared with 184 in 2008. All individuals who filed tax returns were offered free debit cards, with acceptance guaranteed. Thirty-eight individuals, formally unbanked, joined White Rose. The York County program included 79 certified tax preparers and 49 phone volunteers, with 7,862 volunteer hours. They prepared 2,451 federal tax returns totaling $3.94 million. Although Lehigh Valley FCU, Allentown, did not process tax returns, the credit union donated its conference room for AARP volunteers preparing tax returns for members and nonmembers. The partnership assisted more than 135 individuals, and the credit union has already reserved the room for next tax-filing season, for each Thursday from February through mid-April 2011. The IRS in 2010 awarded 24 TCE grantees $6.1 million and 147 VITA grantees $7.44 million. Through mid-May, the two grant programs filed more than 2.1 million returns at nearly 9,000 sites nationwide.