Getting Financially Fit With VITA—and Giving Back

Today, Kyla Thomas is setting big financial goals: she’s learning all she can about tax credits, perfecting her resume to land an internship and taking budgeting courses to help build her savings and pay off her student loans as quickly as possible.
Kyla Thomas

Today, Kyla Thomas is setting big financial goals: she’s learning all she can about tax credits, perfecting her resume to land an internship and taking budgeting courses to help build her savings and pay off her student loans as quickly as possible. All of this, she says, was inspired by the free tax help she received through The Village’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program and Financial Opportunity Center.

“Last year was the first time I used VITA, and it was the best experience of my life,” Thomas said.

Offered in partnership with United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut and 2-1-1 Connecticut, VITA helps adults with low- to moderate- incomes file their taxes for free, access asset-building opportunities and connect to financial education resources.

As a college student, Thomas knows that every dollar counts. In previous years, she turned to a different service for help, but was met with a $200 charge just to file.

“For me, that was expensive. I could have used that money toward tuition, textbooks or even put it toward a new car,” she explained. “I knew I needed to find another avenue that was more beneficial for me for the next tax season.”

Through VITA and the Financial Opportunity Center, she found that and more.

A full-time student in Massachusetts while living in Connecticut—and holding jobs in both states—Thomas was left with a tax filing too complicated to figure out on her own. The pandemic didn’t help either. Filing for unemployment due to COVID-19 added another layer of complexity.

Thomas went into her first VITA appointment thinking she was going to owe thousands. But after working with Village and VITA Volunteer Donna Murphy, she learned it would be significantly less.

“With Donna’s help and thoroughness, I only owed about $200, with no cost to file,” she said. “Not only that, but she kept in touch and helped me understand everything she was doing to help along the way. It was very comforting.”

The experience inspired her to learn all she could about ways to support her financial wellness. Today, she’s enrolled in a free budgeting class through The Village’s financial coaching services. She’s also participating in career coaching with Village Career Development Specialist Ashley Caine so she can land an internship as part of her Digital Forensics studies at Bay Path University.

She’s even becoming a VITA volunteer so that she can give back and help others.

“After facing several adversities, a lot of people have helped me throughout my life. This is one way I can pass along what I learn to other people, including my loved ones,” Thomas shared. “I want to be able to help people who are in need or overwhelmed by their taxes and finances. I was one of those people. I know exactly what it’s like. Plus, it just feels really nice to help people.”

To schedule a free tax appointment in-person, online or at a local drop-off site, visit 211ct.org/taxhelp or call 2-1-1 to get started.

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