Our mission is to provide year-round, free tax return preparation assistance and tax education for low- and middle-income families, individuals and seniors throughout Northern Colorado. Our tax preparation and education services help the financially vulnerable avoid predatory service providers, while helping them improve their knowledge and personal financial capabilities.
Realities Focus, Inc., a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization, was created in 2004, to coordinate the efforts of the Larimer County VITA/TCE efforts that began in 1969. Its purpose is to provide free tax preparation and tax education services to low and middle income families, individuals and seniors located in Larimer County. Board members have a combined average of 11 years of volunteer tax preparation experience. Many have served on the Realities Focus Board since its inception.
The volunteers who make up Realities Focus come from diverse, multicultural origins and educational backgrounds, which helps ensure that we are able to meet our clients' needs in a competent manner whatever their background. Returning volunteers receive approximately 32 hours of training time per tax season, including 8 to 12 hours of group classroom training and an average of 20 to 24 hours of self-instruction using IRS-provided training materials and online certification testing. All volunteers complete annual ethics and confidentiality training and all preparers are certified to the Advanced level as a minimum. Many volunteers are certified in up to five specialty areas of tax law.
Our target audiences are under-served populations in urban and non-urban areas and those in retirement facilities, low-income housing and rental properties. Our outreach includes elderly persons, low income individuals and families, military members and their families, the disabled under age 65, low-income members of minority groups and others. When requested, we provide in-home services to the home-bound. We try to place our sites near public transportation routes and our regular sites are handicap accessible.
Our average client earns a gross income of $20,000 - well below the national poverty standard. Earned Income Credits (EIC) and Child Tax Credits (CTC) on their federal returns typically constitute more than forty percent of total annual income for the taxpayer's family. National Community Tax Coalition statistics show the average cost in Colorado for a standard federal return is $300, plus additional fees for Earned Income Credit, Child Tax Credit, self-employment schedules and other common forms. State returns and e-filing usually carry extra charges.
We help our fellow community members keep those fees where they are most needed - in their own pockets. We help prevent them from falling prey to unscrupulous tax preparers who take advantage of the taxpayer's moment of need and lack of knowledge about the true cost of their services and add-on financial products. We help our clients become better financial consumers by learning how to plan ahead for taxes and how to prepare their own returns. As they become better personal financial managers, they become stronger, more confident community members.
We interact with four to five thousand clients each year and prepare more than 3,500 federal returns and an equal number of state returns. In a typical tax season, we help our clients receive $3 million in refunds and credits and save more than $800,000 in preparation fees. The combined economic impact in Larimer county exceeds $6,000,000.