United Way's free tax preparation seeks 350 volunteers
Program helps working people, those affected by COVID-19 maximize tax refunds
November 24, 2020
United Way of Southwestern PA is recruiting 350 volunteer tax preparers for its 2020-2021 Free Tax Preparation effort in Allegheny, Fayette, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties. Volunteers complete tax returns for hard-working, low-income families and individuals, ensuring that everyone receives the full refunds they have earned and deserve.
“Receiving a tax refund can be a huge help for low-income families or anyone that’s been struggling from COVID-19,” said Alena Anderson, United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s United for Families Program Manager. “More than ever, many of the families we serve depend on their tax refunds to pay for basic needs, including rent, utilities, groceries, and transportation to and from work.”
No prior tax preparation experience is necessary to volunteer during the season, which runs from January through mid-April. All volunteers must complete the IRS training and certification. This year, all training will be virtual and adhere to social distancing guidelines. No volunteers will be required to serve in person, but both in-person and virtual free tax sites will be available across the region. Continuing education credits are available for professionals; internship opportunities are available for students.
“Prior to utilizing United Way’s Free Tax Prep program, many of the families we serve had no idea that this lifeline was available,” added Ms. Anderson. “Our well-trained volunteers are from all walks of life, but have the common goal of making the process less intimidating for families and individuals, while helping them secure critical refunds.”
Last year across the region, 294 volunteers prepared more than 8,000 tax returns, which generated millions of dollars in refunds. Although faced with complications due to the COVID-19 pandemic, United Way’s Free Tax Prep program was able help families avoid tax filing fees and receive millions of dollars of on-time refunds to put toward basic needs like food and housing.
Additionally, volunteers helped many working families obtain the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), one of the nation’s largest anti-poverty programs, which lets qualifying filers pay less federal tax, pay no tax, or even get a tax refund of $500 to more than $6,000.