ABDC's Volunteer Tax & Loan Program
The goal of ABDC’s Volunteer Tax & Loan Program is to build a collaborative team of entities from around the state and nation to provide free tax assistance and related services to rural Alaskans who do not have access to quality tax services due to low income, language barriers and geographic location. The program’s success is measured by its ability to provide quality services free of charge to individuals and to the largest number of people in need possible.
VTLP is unique in that the program is the only non-profit group that travels directly to remote villages of the state to bring free tax services to low-income clients and individuals with limited English language proficiency. The program travels to villages where VITA sites do not exist and where professional tax assistance is limited or not available at all.
In harmony with ABDC's focus and VTLP's goal, the program travels to communities throughout the rural parts of Alaska where populations are typically less than 300 people per village and the only means of transportation into the community is via small aircraft. The program services over 90 communities within the following nine regions of the state: Aleutians, Bristol Bay, Interior, Kodiak Island, North Slope, Pribilofs, Southeast, Western, and Yukon Delta. For a list of specific village names and results from prior seasons, please refer to the annual report.
As a nonprofit, ABDC operates the program through the solicitation of funds by and large from local governmental, nonprofit and business entities, including local financial institutions, Alaska Native organizations, and CDQ groups. ABDC has been very fortunate to collaborate with several large entities within Alaska, who contribute significantly to the program for the benefit of their residents. These entities include the Tanana Chiefs Conference, Coastal Villages Region Fund, Yukon Delta Fisheries Development Association, and Arctic Slope Regional Corporation. In addition, ADI, one of the program founders, remains one of the main supporters to assist commercial fishermen in Alaska.
In addition to the larger contract dollars received, ABDC also receives monetary and in-kind donations from Village Councils, City Council and local schools. These donations assist in providing workplaces and accommodations for the traveling volunteers.
Unfortunately, not every area of Alaska the program serves has the funding partnerships available to bring the program’s services to its community members. Increasing expenses to the program highlight this problem, for example, airfare costs continue to rise as fuel and insurance costs increase. Increases in overall costs contribute to the program’s need for increased funding and is the main reason the program is always in search of new partners to help bring assistance to these communities.
If your community or organization is interested in contributing to the program please contact the center for further information.
VTLP's success is possible with the dedication of a diverse and dynamic team of people. The program has received student and faculty volunteers from five educational institutions: University of Alaska Anchorage, Ithaca College (New York), University of Idaho, Gonzaga University (Washington), and University of Montana. Additionally, IRS agents, program alumni, ABDC staff and other community professionals volunteer their time to assist the program.
Teams of volunteers travel into the field in groups of two to four students and one supervisor who is in charge of logistics, education and assisting with complications in the field. As most of the villages are accessible only by small aircraft with 40# weight limits, each team member travels with a small personal bag and sleeping bag as in many situations the best public accommodations are amongst the school floor. Additionally, the students are equipped with laptop computers on which the returns are prepared and e-filed upon return back to Anchorage. Typically students receive upper division credit through the university in addition to hands-on experience of preparing tax returns and real life experience of traveling into rural Alaska.
In addition to coordinating logistics, supervisors provide education to the local residents on specific tax topics. This helps to expand their understanding of the tax laws and their rights. If you are interested in participating as a program volunteer please contact the center.