LA2050 Grants Challenge applications are open now through June 28th, 2024.
2023 Grants Challenge

Navigating Money Systems: VITA & Financial Coaching

Financial empowerment through free tax preparation and financial coaching, building dreams one family at a time. Financial and tax systems are challenging, we're here to provide in-language help while bridging the cultural gaps.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Income Inequality

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

East LA

San Gabriel Valley

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

20% of the tax returns in LA County are not claiming eligible credits resulting in millions of refunds lost to the community. Our community requests more VITA locations in the greater San Gabriel valley area with Mandarin and Cantonese services and be within walking distance of our elderly clients. Over 60% of our clients are above the age of 50. By helping our clients navigate the complex tax system, language barrier, and meeting them where they're at, CSC has become the go-to resource for any tax preparation, IRS letter support, and basic tax planning in the community. Culturally, there is shame and taboo regarding asking for financial help. We've identified a need for our clients to get basic financial education on topics like applying for eligible benefit & assistance programs, ways to track & manage income & expenses, preparing for retirement.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

Each year, our VITA program supports the community by completing over 1,000 tax returns, with over 1,200 completed this tax season. This results in $700,000 - $950,000 in tax refunds. On average, we support 350 counts of Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), resulting in refunds of $350,000 - $400,000. The EITC is designed by the federal government to get support to the low income families who need it the most. This project will allow us to scale up our VITA efforts by another 20-30% through additional staffing to open multiple locations. The VITA program will support a taxpayer through the entire tax preparation process, from document collection, to reading the tax return, understanding their refunds or owed taxes, payment methods, refund tracking, accessing the IRS website, and a wide variety of tax credit related education. By filing their taxes, many times this results in one of the largest checks for a low-to-moderate income family for the year. Integrating financial coaching during the refund process allows families to set their own financial SMART goals and work with a coach to customize their own game plan and strategy to get there. The Financial Fitness Coach (FFC) certification, a 200 hour training program, is transformative in that it covers a broad range of money management topics and financial competencies along with the core skills needed to do client-driven coaching.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

The VITA and Financial Empowerment programs will provide the community with access to cost-free, high quality tax preparation services, tax and financial education, tax and financial planning. Through these efforts, individuals and families will be able to utilize finances as a tool to achieve their goals and dreams by understanding how money works.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

We are measuring the VITA program through the number of tax returns completed, the dollar amount of refunds our clients receive, the number of EITC claimed, the dollar amount of refunds through the EITC. We aim to increase the current program figures by an additional 20-30% through this project by adding addtional service locations. We are measuring the impact of the Financial Empowerment program by tracking the number of bank accounts opened, dollar amount increase in savings, number of budgets completed, average increase in credit score.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 1,500

Indirect Impact: 20,000

Describe the role of collaborating organizations on this project.