Free United Way Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program Makes Tax Season Accessible for All

With the clock now ticking toward the April 15 deadline,  United Way of Santa Barbara County (UWSBC) is now offering free, bi-lingual tax preparation centers for families and individuals who earned less than $66,000 in 2018.

UWSBC’s United for Financial Empowerment Partnership is offering assistance centers during evening, day and weekend hours to accommodate as many residents as possible. Each Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) location is staffed by trained, experienced, IRS-certified volunteers who provide free income tax return preparation and E-Filing to help residents receive their tax refunds that help improve financial stability.

“Tax preparation can seem like an intimidating process, but our volunteers can help turn this into a financially empowering learning experience,” said Steve Ortiz, UWSBC President & CEO. “There’s no need to fear or put off tax preparation. The expertise to get it done right and set yourself up for success is right here, free of charge.”

In particular, volunteers are looking to ensure that even more working families benefit from California’s recently-expanded Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). What is new?

  • Higher income limits. A parent with an income of $24,950 or less may benefit from the credit if they have one or more qualifying children. That means a parent working full-time at the state minimum wage of roughly $12 per hour could qualify.
  • More working Californians will benefit from this credit. Adults ages 18-24 without dependents, and older adults ages 65+ without dependents will also be eligible for this credit for the first time in tax year 2018.
  • Work for yourself? You qualify too. Even if you earned income from self-employment, you may qualify for the credit. Both 1099 filers and cash earners qualify.

With the combined federal and state credits, eligible families can get up to $6,000 back after filing their taxes. The average combined refund for both credits combined is $3,000. All you need to do to take advantage of this credit is to file your state and federal tax returns. Search for a free tax preparation site, with IRS-certified tax preparers, or file online by visiting  

In 2018, more than 100 volunteers through UWSBC’s United for Financial Empowerment Partnership prepared more than 2,100 returns, securing more than $2.3 million in refunds for participants.

Tax preparation services will be available at the following VITA sites through April 15:

  • United Way (320 E. Gutierrez St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101) 1-4 p.m., Tuesdays and Wednesdays
  • Santa Barbara High School (700 E. Anapamu St. Room 71, Santa Barbara, CA 93103) 3-6 p.m., Wednesdays (Closed March 27)
  • Goleta Valley Community Center (5679 Hollister Ave., Goleta, CA 93117) 9 a.m.-noon, 1-4 p.m. Fridays
  • Franklin Neighborhood Center (1136 Montecito St., Santa Barbara, CA 93103) 6-9 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays
  • Police Activities League (1235 Chapala St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101) 7-9 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays
  • Santa Ynez High School (2975 E. Highway 246 Room E-1, Santa Ynez, CA 93460) 9 a.m.-2p.m. Saturday, March 2, March 9 and April 6. – Appointments available by calling (805) 686-0295.
  • Carpinteria Children’s Project (5201 8th St. Room 312, Carpinteria, CA 93103) 4-6:15 p.m. Wednesdays beginning Feb. 20.
  • UCSB at Phelps Hall, Rooms 1525 and SSMS 1301, 1:30-4:30 p.m. Fridays Feb. 15-March 8 and at the Student Resource Building (SRB) Computer Lab 12:30-3:30 p.m. Feb. 16, 17 and 24.

For more information and a comprehensive list of VITA sites and operating hours, please visit 

About United Way of Santa Barbara County

United Way of Santa Barbara County (UWSBC) has the unique and positive vision that “in our community, everyone has a hopeful future.” Since 1923, UWSBC has served Santa Barbara County community through funding, volunteer development, and by utilizing its own unique initiatives that involve dozens of local non-profit and public sector agencies. UWSBC’s local community driven Power of Partnership™ priorities help children, families & seniors with a focus on Education, Income and Health.

About the United for Financial Empowerment Partnership

United Way of Santa Barbara County’s United for Financial Empowerment Partnership is a community collaborative focused on increasing the financial stability among low-income families in Santa Barbara County. Partners: The Franklin Neighborhood Center, Westside Community Center, Montecito Bank and Trust, Dons Net Café, Santa Barbara Unified School District, AARP, Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara, UCSB, UCSB’s Early Academic Outreach Program (EAOP), UCSB VITA Club, Isla Vista Youth Projects, Police Activities League.

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