Supporting economic empowerment through volunteerism

Tax season provides various opportunities for financial professionals to take part in pro bono and skills-based volunteering. This year, 13 members of eMoney’s financial planning group, seven of which are CFPs, volunteered for more than 100 hours at tax assistance sites where they helped taxpayers find more than $50k in federal tax refunds – free of charge.

The eMoney employees underwent hours of training to become IRS-certified to work with clients at tax preparation sites, which were operated by organizations focused on helping low-and-moderate-income individuals and families thrive during tax season. The organizations that eMoney worked with this year include the Community Resource Center VITA Program in California and Campaigns for Working Families (CWF) in Philadelphia.

While assisting more than 60 individuals and families file their tax returns, Chris Hershey, supervisor of financial planning at eMoney Advisor, recalled a particular low-income family with a few children to support. Through the tax filing process, the family discovered they qualified for the earned income tax credit and were eligible for a sizable refund. “Participating in this program gave us an opportunity to not only offer a service free-of-charge but to educate clients on aspects of the tax filing process that can sometimes be overwhelming,” said Hershey.

By offering free tax preparation services, organizations like VITA and CWF help save costs for taxpayers each year. “These cost savings are especially important for the elderly VITA and CWF clients, who mostly rely on social security or fixed incomes,” said Celeste Hernandez Revelli, manager of financial planning at eMoney Advisor. Last year alone, CWF helped saved taxpayers a total of $9.2 million in tax preparation fees1.

After collectively spending more than 100 hours of volunteering between both coasts, one thing was very apparent to the group and that was how openly grateful and appreciative the clients at each tax assistant site were. “Hearing how comfortable and stress-free we made them feel reinforced why we were there,” said Jenny Kauffman, a client success specialist at eMoney Advisor. “Most of the clients we encountered didn’t have anyone else to turn to for help. To know that I made a difference, even if only for one person this year, is all that matters,” added Kauffman.

In 2017, CWF filed over $46 million in state and federal refunds for more than 56,000 clients. The program also operated 38 free tax preparation sites staffed by more than 850 volunteers1. The VITA program at the CRC in California served 800 taxpayers in the 2016 tax year, which was an increase from the 30 taxpayers during the 2010 tax year2. Thousands of volunteers donate their time and skills to programs like VITA and CWF each year. Getting involved is simple, just visit their websites for more information: Community Resource Center VITA Program and Campaigns for Working Families.

The complete list of eMoney volunteers is below.

  • Adam Correa – Ca.
  • John Costello – Ca.
  • Chase Hayhurst, CFP® – Ca.
  • Kathy Hieng – Ca.
  • Jenny Kaufman – Ca.
  • Lindsay Wright, CFP® – Ca.
  • Celeste Hernandez, CFP® – Pa.
  • Chris Hershey, CFP® – Pa.
  • Brett Tharp, CFP®– Pa.
  • Ryan Coburn – Pa.
  • Arleny Abad – Pa.
  • James Barker – Pa.
  • Brett Rentzheimer, CFP® – Pa.
  • Connor Sung, CFP® – Pa.
Sources: 1Campaigns for Working Families; 2Community Resource Center VITA Program

Grayce Turnbach

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