DeafTax VITA Pilot
Expressing yourself in your native language is the most effective way to communicate for most people. The same goes for persons who are deaf. Most persons who are deaf consider American Sign Language (ASL) to be their native language. Since ASL is not the same as spoken English, there is better understanding when deaf people use ASL to communicate.
In 2008, National Disability Institute in partnership with the
Internal Revenue Services (IRS) Stakeholder Partnerships, Education and Communication (SPEC),
Schwarz Financial Services designed and implemented a DeafTax Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) pilot to increase equal access to free tax assistance for deaf taxpayers in five cities.
The pilot connected deaf taxpayers and deaf tax preparers through state-of-the-art videophones, allowing for deaf-to-deaf tax preparation using ASL to communicate. Deaf tax filers made appointments at their local participating host organizations and connected via secure videophone, scanner and computer to a tax preparer in a remote location.
The 2011 tax season marked the third year deaf taxpayers could use this pilot program to file, yielding a 22 percent increase in the number of returns prepared. Eleven cities participated including Honolulu and New York City. Approximately 271 deaf taxpayers with an adjusted gross income of $19,506 used the service, resulting in $416,039 in tax refunds, with $139,804 in earned income tax credit (EITC).
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