June 2, 2021

Optima Tax Relief recently announced that they are teaming up with the IRS to provide assistance to low-income residents and other members of their surrounding community with free tax preparation services. Fifty members of Optima’s staff registered with the United Way of Orange County, California and Mesa, Arizona to participate in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, which was launched by the IRS to provide free tax preparation services to those such as:

·        Persons with disabilities

·        Limited English-speaking taxpayers

·        Individuals who generally make $57,000 or less per year

Christian Giandomenico, Optima’s Director of Tax Preparation and one of the staff members who volunteered for the program, said that it is the inclusiveness of the program that led her to sign up. “Quality tax preparation should be available to everyone, regardless of income or background,” she said. “Taxes can be complicated, and I couldn’t stand the thought that some people are left trying to navigate through complex situations without any assistance, all because they feel like they can’t afford it. I was inspired to know that the program serves over 3 million taxpayers annually, putting over $4 billion back into low-income communities. The first day I showed up and saw the various demographics; from students, the elderly, ESL individuals…I realized the level of impact this translated into. It was such an incredible feeling of fulfillment.”

The free tax help offered by the VITA program is particularly beneficial for those who are 60 years of age and older, as it specializes in questions about pensions and other retirement-related issues that are unique to seniors. Many of the community members who would qualify for the program are retired individuals associated with non-profit organizations that receive grants from the IRS.

Giandomenico found the specialized support for seniors to be the most rewarding part of the program. “I had never realized how many seniors try to do their taxes on their own. They’ve been filing their taxes the same way for decades, and now that they’ve retired, they aren’t always aware of what has changed or what new write-offs they qualify for,” she said. “The experience was very heartwarming; we were told ‘Thank You’ countless times from individuals coming in to pick up their returns or needed assistance filling out tax forms. Some indicated, ‘you don’t know how much this helps me year over year’. Without this program, they would have never had their taxes professionally prepared.”

Optima CEO David King wasn’t surprised when he was informed of how many members of his staff volunteered for the program. “We hire for character in all facets of the company, and then reinforce that regularly with all of our employees. Seeing all those members of our staff volunteering for this program really underscores the kind of quality people we have in the Optima family.”

By partnering with the IRS, the VITA program is able to offer reliable, trustworthy tax filing services for free. Optima’s volunteers are all licensed tax preparers that are up to date with both federal tax laws and any new IRS updates making them ideal candidates for the VITA program. The volunteers have also gone through extensive IRS training to maintain the privacy and confidentiality of all taxpayer information.

“Every year, low-income residents miss out on millions of dollars in federal and California tax refunds and credits that they are entitled to and deserve. Our OC Free Tax Prep program helps these hard-working people keep more of their earnings,” said Susan B. Parks, President and CEO of Orange County United Way. “Many of these families already face financial struggles and the pandemic has caused even greater strain. These tax refunds and credits will provide a much-needed boost to help pay for rent, food or medical expenses.”

Optima Tax Preparer Manager and VITA program participant Anne Tran said she would do the program again in the future if given the opportunity.  “I’d do it every year if I could,” she said.  “I love helping people and volunteering. That’s why I joined the VITA team. Most of the people I worked with were getting a professional tax return done for the first time.  It was wonderful getting to know them and to help them get the biggest return possible. I met an elderly lady whose family dropped her off at the VITA office with the intention to pick her up in a couple of hours. After her family left, she found out she forgot to bring a critical document. I offered to drive her home to get it so we could complete her tax filing. She was so happy and kept saying ‘thank you’ the whole time.  It was such a rewarding experience.”

Optima’s top priority is to continue working alongside the IRS to assist both their community and individuals across the U.S. by resolving unmanageable tax burdens and helping their clients achieve a better financial future.