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United Way's free tax prep program seeks to help low-income and COVID-burdened families receive much-needed refunds

 

February 16, 2021

United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania's Free Tax Prep program is offering free virtual or hybrid tax preparation for individuals.

With these new virtual services, clients can upload their materials and tax experts will prepare and review the return. The hybrid tax preparation entails two brief appointments in a safe environment, following CDC guidelines, to provide information and review the return. These services are available to residents in Allegheny, Fayette, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties, and the program ensures that low-income residents can maximize their refund and lessen the financial burdens from the pandemic.

"Families in the community still need help staying afloat; many people are still looking for employment and, as a result, are experiencing food insecurity and struggling to pay for utilities and rent," said Alena Anderson, United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania's United for Families program manager. "Having taxes prepared by our IRS-trained volunteers can be that lifeline these families need to receive the money they have earned and get financially back on track."

This year, hundreds of volunteers have signed up to help local individuals prepare their taxes and receive various beneficial tax credits. During the 2020 tax season, almost 300 IRS-trained volunteers helped prepare roughly 8,000 tax returns, generating millions of dollars in vital refunds. These United Way volunteers are highly trained and educated to manage the filing process, and the additional steps due to stimulus checks and unemployment benefits issued in 2020.

Many families who use United Way's Free Tax Prep service are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a benefit for working people with low to moderate income. Taxpayers who qualify and claim the credit could pay less federal tax, pay no tax, or even get a tax refund of $500 to more than $6,000.

"This year the tax preparation process is especially complicated due to the issuing of stimulus checks and high volume of unemployment," added Ms. Anderson. "Our United Way Free Tax Prep volunteers are extremely knowledgeable and will strive to secure the maximum refund and avoid filing errors for all of our clients."

Free tax preparation services are available now through April 10, 2021 by visiting pa211sw.org or dialing 2-1-1. Assistance from a volunteer tax preparer is available for individuals and families with a total annual income up to $57,000. Additionally, free, do-it-yourself online tax assistance is available at http://www.myfreetaxes.com for all individuals and families.

 

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