Living As One and Getting By in Fairfax County: Free Tax Assistance

A picture at the county's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program in Annandale.


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Editor’s Note:

This is the first of a series of articles we’re calling “Living As One and Getting By in Fairfax County” that will shed some light on how our community is addressing income inequality by providing opportunities and services that help all of our residents to thrive.

Almost 72,000 people live in poverty in Fairfax County, according to current U.S. Census information (which also includes Falls Church and City of Fairfax). Poverty for a family of four in our county is defined as an annual income of less than $24,250.

Infographic showing how many people living in poverty in Fairfax County and a breakdown by ethnicity.

We are a large and affluent county with 1.1 million residents. But like many other jurisdictions, our economy is still feeling the negative impacts of the 2008 recession. Most notably since the recession, the number of our residents living in poverty has gone up and has stayed at a higher rate.


Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax preparation assistance to individuals and families who earned $54,000 or less in 2016. The program is staffed by approximately 250 IRS trained volunteers who assist our residents at more than 17 locations throughout the county and Northern Virginia including library branches and county human services offices. Last year, the program helped 5,886 families with low-income receive more than $9.6 million in refunds and saved them more than $1.1 million in professional filing fees

It is important to note that last tax season the adjusted gross income for families and individuals participating in the county’s VITA program was $23,346.14. As noted above, the poverty level for a family of four is annual income of less than $24,250.

As an example, a staff member explains how one resident benefitted from VITA:

“We had a resident who came to our Annandale site. His preliminary tax return was showing that he owed $1,000 and his house was “under water.” After his tax return was reviewed and reworked, it turned out that instead of owing money, the resident was going to receive $3,000 in a tax refund. He could not believe it, and told us a story about his hardships and how he could barely afford to pay his mortgage. Our site coordinator suggested he file amended returns for the last three years. The resident ended up receiving another $3,000 in refunds for each year and cried tears of gratitude. We were really happy to be able to do what was right for this man!”

Watch this conversation with Mohammad Sefat, our Annandale-based VITA Volunteer Site Coordinator:

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