Felipe Castro holds a sign advertising a tax preparation office for people that still need help completing their taxes before the Internal Revenue Service deadline on April 14, 2010, in Miami, Florida. With only one day to go before the April 15th deadline to file taxes, accountants around the U.S. are swamped with people who waited until the last day to file. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
**FILE** Felipe Castro holds a sign advertising a tax preparation office for people that still need help completing their taxes before the Internal Revenue Service deadline on April 14, 2010, in Miami, Florida. With only one day to go before the April 15th deadline to file taxes, accountants around the U.S. are swamped with people who waited until the last day to file. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Friday, Jan. 27 is Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Awareness Day, which can be seen as the launch of tax season. EITC is a refundable tax credit available to qualifying lower-wage workers and their families. Among states with a refundable EITC, the highest match rates are in the District of Columbia at 70%.

United Way of the National Capital Area (United Way NCA) is leading a regional coalition of partners working on this effort including the District of Columbia Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking to provide VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) sites throughout the DMV region, five of which are located in D.C. Trained and qualified IRS tax professionals are available to work free of charge with individuals with an annual income of $59,187 or less to determine if they qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) to help them claim these tax credits, which can result in a larger tax refund.

Free VITA programs are also available through United Way NCA’s regionwide powerful network of Financial Empowerment Centers (FECs), including referrals for VITA programming at the Greater Washington Urban League at Marshall Heights Community Development Organization, 3939 Benning Road NE, Washington, DC 20019. FECs also offer free financial coaching, small business counseling, workshops and more year-round.

The IRS estimates that 20% of tax filers don’t claim their EITC, which is why United Way NCA partners with the IRS’ VITA program to ensure that our community members have access to qualified tax preparers who can ensure they have explored and applied for EITC credits. A motivating fact: In D.C., the average VITA tax refund is $1,490.

United Way NCA’s Financial Empowerment Centers (FEC) will offer free tax services until April 15, 2023. To learn more about EITC, community members are encouraged to register for the United Way NCA’s Change Makers webinar “VITA/EITC Programs and Their Impact on Advancing Equity.” The Change Makers Education Series convenes thought leaders in conversations focused on trends in the National Capital Area and solutions that advance equity in the region. To register for the Change Makers webinar and review the available resources, please visit https://unitedwaynca.org/changemakers.

Until we reach financial equity for all in the DMV, United Way NCA will continue to invest in IRS-trained professionals to help our residents receive free tax preparation services each year. We believe everyone should have access to financial professionals with the know-how to maximize tax credits, receive the largest tax refund possible, and guide residents on the best ways to use those funds to pay off debt, invest in a home, or contribute to generational wealth that can transform the future of their families. We truly believe that when none are ignored, all will thrive.

Rosie Allen-Herring is president and CEO of United Way NCA.

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