The U.S. Department of Justice describes domestic violence as “a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.” Not only does it lead to physical and psychological harm, domestic violence is characterized by economic distress, financial dependence and employment instability.
Free tax filing assistance and refundable tax credits, such as the EITC and CTC, may be a lifeline that can help survivors to boost earning power, establish a safety net, and ultimately end financial relationships with an abusive partner.
- Domestic violence advocates and shelters
- Child welfare agencies
- Foster parent associations
- Family counseling and crisis intervention programs and support groups
1. Work with staff at domestic violence shelters.
Train shelter staff and advocates to disseminate information on free tax preparation, tax credits, and asset-building services. Refer to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s State Coalition List or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Provide flyers, brochures, and business cards on-site at domestic violence shelters with specific contact information for follow-up rather than a general organizational phone number or e-mail address.
2. Conduct face-to-face tax credit outreach.
Electronic only outreach efforts can miss and endanger domestic violence survivors who are more vulnerable to identity theft and cyber stalking. Instead of limiting outreach to the web sites and emails, arrange to speak about the tax credits during a meeting for advocates or shelter residents. Share the safety procedures in place at free tax filling assistance sites and what clients can expect during their appointments.
3. Provide free tax filing assistance at domestic violence shelters.
Dispatch staff to explain the tax credits and answer questions about eligibility. Explain that VITA volunteers are bound by federal confidentiality rules when helping tax filers. Help survivors manage joint tax liability with an ex-abusive partner with services such as Low-Income Taxpayer Clinics or the Taxpayer Advocate Service.
4. Reach out to relative caregivers and foster parents of children removed from a home impacted by domestic violence.
Make sure they know about the tax credits and free tax help. Connect with them through child welfare agencies, foster parent associations, or community-based programs with services such as family counseling, crisis intervention, and support groups.