United Way's free tax preparation seeks 350 volunteers
Program helps working people struggling in the community receive maximum tax refunds
Last updated 1/25/2023 at 8:35pm
United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania is recruiting 350 volunteer tax preparers for its 2022-2023 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.
Cheryl Hayes has helped countless community members file their taxes over the past four years. After retiring as an IT manager for Braskem, she was looking for a way to give back and a friend introduced her to United Way's Free Tax Prep program.
"I remember a single mother who came in. She was going to school, and she had had her taxes done by a tax prep service in the past," said Ms. Hayes. "When reviewing her previous return, I realized they hadn't told her that her tuition was something she could deduct on her taxes. She paid hundreds and hundreds of dollars to get her taxes done and she didn't even get the full refund she was eligible for."
Volunteers help 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 $1,500 to more than $6,000. Additionally, volunteers can help families determine if they qualify for Child Tax Credits (CTC) through their return.
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. Tax prep services will be provided virtually, in-person and via drop off. Assistance from a volunteer tax preparer is available for individuals with a total income of up to $40,000 and families with a total annual income up to $60,000.
"Filing taxes has always been easy for me, but so many people are afraid of them," shared Ms. Hayes. "It makes me feel like I'm really helping the people who are out there working trying to get ahead and be good citizens. When you sit down and you get to talk to people and see what they're going through – and honestly see how little money some people live on – it makes you really stop and count your blessings."
Last year across the region, 280 volunteers prepared more than 7,000 tax returns, delivering $13.6 million in refunds back to Southwestern PA residents. United Way's Free Tax Prep program was able to help families avoid tax filing fees and receive millions of dollars of on-time refunds to help meet basic needs and move toward financial stability.
Volunteers must sign up before December 31, 2022. Volunteers are needed at sites across Allegheny, Fayette, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties and can sign up at uwswpa.org/free-tax-preparation.