A Recap of VITACon ‘23 from CFR Partnership Program Manager, Christian Govea
It was an absolute pleasure to attend VITACon this year. As a first time attendee and recent participant in this space, it was incredible to meet folks of VITA programs ranging anywhere from being a few years old to others who have been leading this work for decades. ProsperityNow did a wonderful job of creating a conference that provided not only a multitude of avenues of support to expand VITA programs, but also a space to applaud the enduring efforts of those programs since the pandemic. As a collective, it is clear that the individuals who encompass these VITA programs are incredibly passionate, and stand firm that this service is vital to the financial health of many struggling families.
The conference began with an open plenary session highlighting some of the previous assumptions that were held about most scenarios for individuals during tax season, and subsequently unveiling the stark reality. What stood out to me the most was the assumption that tax season is a wealth building moment for most people, when in reality it is often a way to catch up on past due bills before running into the same problem a few months later.
Once break out sessions took place, local funding sources suggestions took center stage where VITA site staff were able to air their frustrations with a lack of success in getting in local support while those who were very successful offered insight into how they secured funding. The following session dove into ideas on how to create partnerships and coalitions to enhance a program's presence in their local communities.
What was incredibly impactful was the session regarding "the Grey Areas". This session identified the human aspect of what is on the other side of a 1040. In a " Dear Iris" format, a trio of scenarios were presented from tax preparers and how they themselves were unsure of how to best prepare a tax return in a unique and complex tax return scenario. Each of these examples were presented and then analyzed on how to file with the maximum benefit to the individual while still maintaining the regulations of the tax code. This analysis and understanding that this is a human service and how best to help individuals encapsulated the spirit of what the VITA program is all about.
With tax season around the corner and more VITA sites offering in person support again, CFR looks forward to continuing supporting VITA sites around the country with providing tax preparers the option of the Focus Card to receive their refunds via direct deposit for the 2023 season.