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VITA Program Increased Its Tax Return Accuracy, Report Says

By Michael Beller
TaxAnalysts
A report released August 25 by the IRS found the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program raised its accuracy 2 percentage points to 85.35 percent for fiscal 2011 from the previous year.

A report released August 25 by the IRS found the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program raised its accuracy 2 percentage points to 85.35 percent for fiscal 2011 from the previous year.

According to the report, the VITA program prepared 1.3 million tax returns across the country for taxpayers with an average adjusted gross income of $21,000. VITA helped those taxpayers collect $1.9 billion in tax refunds during the 2011 filing season. (For the report, see Doc 2011-18259)

"The participating organizations [in VITA], in partnership with IRS SPEC [Stakeholder Partnerships, Education and Communication] division, continuously championed quality," said Jackie Lynn Coleman, senior director of the National Community Tax Coalition. "Accuracy of returns continues to improve, and a uniform quality review process also is used at the [VITA] sites."

The VITA program contributed to the IRS's goal of an 80 percent electronic filing rate by completing more than 92 percent of its returns electronically. Only 69 percent of taxpayers who self-prepare their returns or use a pay service file electronically. VITA helped save an estimated $80 million in paid preparer fees for taxpayers claiming the earned income tax credit.

Coleman said an increase in volunteers and participating organizations, as well as the sluggish economy, contributed to a 2 percent bump in taxpayers using VITA and that the rise in accuracy could also be attributed to the additional volunteers. She said plans are already in the works for the 2012 tax year.

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