VITA: Retake Money from the Government to Give to the Poor

Each year, the IRS trains volunteers to help people with low incomes do their tax returns. This helps people with low incomes who otherwise might fail to apply for tax credits that they qualify for, such as the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit.

In , volunteers in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program helped 843,803 people fill out their tax forms. This brought $66 million in taxes to the U.S. treasury — but took $996 million back out in refunds. So on average, each tax return that a VITA volunteer helped to fill out took about $1,100 out of Uncle Sam’s pocket and put it into the pocket of someone who would spend it more responsibly.

Last year, I volunteered at Arriba Juntos in San Francisco, and helped 18 families take back $10,341 from the government. The year before, I helped 17 families reclaim $20,404.

There are far more people who need help filing their returns than there are VITA volunteers, so if you like the idea of playing Robin Hood, I encourage you to sign up. You don’t have to be an income tax wizard — the IRS provides free training, and you can volunteer to help in ways that don’t directly involve tax preparation if you really don’t want to go anywhere near a 1040.

This free training can also be useful to people who want to be tax resistance counselors, or who just want to learn more about the IRS-approved methods of keeping their money out of the government’s hands.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any centralized resource you can go to in order to find out how to volunteer in your area. I’m familiar with VITA programs in my area run through Arriba Juntos and the United Way, but across the country these volunteer programs are run by many different organizations.

The Santa Clara County VITA program seems particularly well-organized, and they offer a registration page on their web site that accepts volunteers from anywhere in the country (they’ll forward your registration information to a national coordinator). You can also call the IRS at 1‒800‒829‒1040 or contact your local IRS office to ask them to direct you to local volunteer opportunities.

The tax resistance pledges at the “Don’t Buy Bush’s War” project keep pouring in:

Already resisting for two years! We must end torture, we must end wars of aggression.
Greg Junell, San Luis Obispo, California
As a disabled combat veteran I know that killing people is not the way to solve problems. If you politicians want war than it should be you politicians out there fighting and dying, not our young people.
Kim Maynard, Eugene, Oregon
Thank you for providing a legal structure to put the People’s values into actions. This will empower the public who at the moment feel powerless in the face of the present government.
Ameeta Nanji, Venice, California
Swords into plowshares. No more money for war.… We the People… it’s time to stand up.
Eileen Kreutz, Industry, Maine
…All your taxes go to destruction and power games! Don’t be a slave!
James Limbach, San Francisco, California
I haven’t filed taxes . It’s scary but I thing it’s a human right to not pay for mass murder and torture and illegal wars based on lies. Sometimes I feel bad about not contributing to the good of the commonwealth but when a good man commits murder this must be addressed. I could not stand being an accomplice to murder. I have paid taxes through all of the dirty wars we have funded for . I can’t do it any more. The Democrats are playing good cop bad cop with us saying in effect we feel your pain but we vote for torture, illegal wire tapping and war.
Scot Macinnis, Longmont, Colorado
Have any of you looked at a map of all our military bases lately?… They’re springing up like mushrooms after a rain and surrounding the oil rich nations like vultures. No matter how Bush and Cheney want to package it, we have no right to their resources. And we have no right pushing our way of life on them! My god, who are the extremists? Even after we realized we went to war on false pretenses, we’re still there and the bush admin. keeps pushing for more war, except against the perpetrator of 911. Why hasn’t this president been impeached?
Susan Peuler, Sandwich, Illinois
We had our chance to actually make a difference over there, but we showed our real intentions by only protecting the oil.
Julio Sandoval, Chicago, Illinois
I support the troops, but not their deaths and the deaths of the innocent.
Becky Van Meter, Houston, Texas
I am sick and tired of the death and destruction the U.S. has inflicted on other nations and its own people (including New Orleans).
Rayeanne King, Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts
We the people…
Khris Beliveau, Latham, New York
I do not give my consent to wage wars of aggression and it is immoral to compel me to pay for the murder of innocents.
Ruth Kastner, Greenbelt, Maryland
Because I am a proud American, I choose to use my Democratic right to voice my opposition to the killing of innocents, the right ot disagree with the government leaders and to do everything I can to create a planet that my children, grandchildren and all human beings can coexist on together peacefully.
Valerie Burkman, Menahga, Minnesota
Bush & Cheney should be impeached now. No more taxes until this war ends.
Linda Fecher, West Carrollton, Ohio
I am no longer willing to support a tax that pays for continued war in Iraq or Iran.
Saren Nelson, Corvalis, Oregon
This is not an easy comfortable choice, but it is one that we must make. Civil disobedience is a powerful measure. It is our charge in a democracy.
Celia Alario, Moab, Utah
The invasion and occupation of Iraq beginning in was a violation of international law and carried out through lies and deciet by the administration of G.W. Bush, Dick Cheney, et al. I will no longer fund this crime against humanity with my taxes.
Joseph Janssen, Scandinavia, Wisconsin
As a military family member, I am disgusted by the lack action by Congress to hold the Bush Administration accountable for the never-ending list of illegal, immoral and unethical actions they have taken that border on terroristic acts against our nation and our Constitution. Enough is enough. We need our leader to put the politics on the shelf and begin putting their sworn oath in action by defending our constitution and our democracy. If they cannot find the backbone to do that much, then no money, no government!
Beatice Kay Jones, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania
Cruise missiles or… I don’t know, health care. There’s so many things I’d rather see my tax money go to.
Laban Pheidas, Los Angeles, California
I’m sick of paying taxes that fund War. There is no freedom involved in this war. There is no liberation. This war and all wars past have been all about greed and the rich getting richer.…
Ted Newsome, Los Angeles, California