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United Way offers free tax preparation

Program puts more than $1 million back into the community annually

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united way free taxes

NOW FILING — United Way is offering online and drop-off opportunities for tax filling.

United Way is looking to put money back into residents’ pockets with its annual free tax preparation program.

The program comes as a program of United Way’s financial literacy pillar and has been offered for more than a decade. Certified tax preparers aim to find all possible deductions for taxpayers, and according to program coordinator Cheryl Graham, more than $1 million is put back into the community annually.

“It puts money back into taxpayers’ pockets, and this year it’s more important than ever that they get every credit and every part of their refund and earned income credits that they’re entitled to,” said Graham. “That’s what our program is committed to doing, to make sure you get everything back that you’re entitled to.”

The program will look a little different this year due to COVID-19. Starting now, taxpayers can pick up tax filing packets at Kokomo-Howard County Public Library locations. Taxpayers can complete the paperwork at home and then return it by dropping the packet in a KHCPL book drop. The packets will be picked up by United Way employees. Before filing them, however, the tax preparers must visually confirm taxpayers’ IDs, and this can be done over a quick video call or in-person meeting.

This service is offered to individuals and families with a combined household income of $60,000 or less.

Graham said the packets will be available virtually as well in the near future. To request one, email freetaxprep@unitedwayhoco.org.

Those who are able to do their taxes themselves are encouraged to use one of two free online tax programs. The simplest, www.myfreetaxes.com, is free to individuals and families with annual incomes of $66,000 or less. The program is a free online tax preparation tool provided by H&R Block and United Way partnerships.

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And this year, taxpayers of any income level can request TaxSlayer software by emailing freetaxprep@unitedwayhoco.org.

For those who didn’t receive an Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check) that they were entitled to, they are eligible to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit and receive the funds as a tax return.

“This is for the people who haven’t gotten their stimulus check,” Graham said. “Even if they don’t have income, they can file just to get that. So if they haven’t gotten their $600 this time around, they have to file to get that.”

Due to limited certified tax preparers, Graham encouraged anyone who can to try to file their taxes online themselves. She stressed that MyFreeTaxes is simple and asks only basic, straight-forward questions.

“We could never have enough resources to help everyone who wants their taxes done by us. That’s just an impossibility, so what we want to do is empower people to be able to do it themselves and become self-sufficient in this very scary and intimidating area,” she said. “MyFreeTaxes is easy. It’s a quote-on-quote dumbed-down version of TaxSlayer. So that’s the difference between the two. It’s much simpler. TaxSlayer is the full package.”

In addition to the program helping taxpayers, Graham said it also helps the community.

“This program right here is the number-way way that we get money right back to the people. What we know, too, is that when people that we’re serving get the money back, they’re catching up on their rent. They are buying their refrigerators. They won’t have this much money again for a year, so many of them plan to fix their cars, do some sort of upgrade in their household. So it directly affects their quality of life and goes right back into our economy.”

Additional information on tax preparation and materials needed to prepare taxes can be found on United Way’s website at https://unitedwayhoco.org/tax-preparation/. Questions can be directed to Cheryl Graham at 765-450-7619 ext. 320 or by emailing freetaxprep@unitedwayhoco.org.