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Border Federal Credit Union Celebrates 10th VITA Anniversary
Monday, January 26, 2015 7:00 AM

Border Federal Credit Union celebrated its 10th anniversary of providing free income tax preparation services to its local communities through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program.

Del Rio City Mayor Robert Garza, IRS representatives, and other dignitaries gathered to celebrate the milestone on Friday, Jan. 23, at the credit union's HEB in-store branch located in Del Rio, Texas.

Since they began the VITA program, BFCU has prepared over 9,450 income tax returns. While BFCU averaged approximately $150 per return in preparation fees, they have saved the community over $1.4 million dollars in fees—money the taxpayers were able to keep in their pockets.

Through the free services provided by BFCU's IRS certified volunteers, over $18 million dollars in income tax refunds came back to the local communities, including close to $7 million in earned income tax credits. Those are monies that families were able to apply toward paying off debt, making rent/mortgage payments, buying groceries, affording school, and putting into savings accounts.

The average household income for the VITA participants over the last nine years was $17,014. And for the past two years, BFCU has partnered with Raise Texas and the Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation to incentivize those VITA participants to save through the Texas Opportunity Savings Project (OSP). The OSP accounts are special savings accounts offered during the VITA season to members willing to use Form 8888 Split Refund to save $500 off their income tax refund.

In 2013, the taxpayers walked away with a $50 VISA gift card when their income tax return was prepared. Plus, if they added $100 to the OSP account before the end of 2013, they would receive a dollar-for-dollar match of up to $100.

BFCU opened 71 OSP accounts in 2013, and 61 of those accountholders (85.9 percent) completed the program successfully, with an initial savings of $28,750 and total savings of $38,304 by the end of the year (2013).

BFCU also had 30 of the 71 OSP participants attend a financial education class or a financial one-on-one counseling session. BFCU is currently in the process of closing out its second year of OSP accounts, and the results for 2014 will be available as soon as the year is closed out.

BFCU has also been an integral partner of the Del Rio High School's VITA Program – CTE Department. The BFCU VITA program manager, along with two IRS certified volunteers, provided IRS training and guided students through the certification process at the Del Rio High School for the last three years.

"We credit the success of BFCU's free income tax preparation service to our staff and site coordinators who have volunteered numerous hours to this program," said BFCU President and CEO Maria J. Martinez. "The tax preparers undergo intense training and must pass an annual comprehensive exam before preparing a single tax return. Through this service, families save money and keep every penny of their refund, which in turn helps build a financially stronger community."

Sponsored by BFCU, the VITA program is a volunteer-supported service helping eligible residents. Services are provided by trained, IRS-certified VITA volunteers and staff through a partnership between the IRS and BFCU. Community members with combined household income of under $53,000 in Tax Year 2014 may be eligible for free income tax preparation assistance through the VITA program.