Joe Burris

United Way of King County to Offer Free Tax Preparation Online to Help Struggling Individuals and Families Keep More of What They Earn

SEATTLE – United Way of King County will offer virtual Free Tax Preparation services to low- and moderate-income, working families with the assistance of IRS-certified volunteers starting on Friday, February 12. 

Due to the coronavirus pandemic social distancing guidelines, in-person tax preparation assistance will not be available this year. 

Sponsored by the Internal Revenue Service, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program will provide services in 20 languages with the help of more than 300 volunteers using the online platform 

The trained volunteers will help filers claim all the credits for which they are eligible, including the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is widely considered a powerful tool to help people get out of poverty.

According to the IRS, 20 percent of taxpayers fail to claim the EITC because they might not understand eligibility requirements.

Walter Washington, financial stability program manager at United Way of King County, said COVID-19 has made the need for taxpayers to claim those credits critical. 

“The pandemic has put a financial strain on families. People are struggling to buy food and pay their rent,” Washington said. “There are a lot of tax credits for which lower-income people qualify, and we want to make sure they claim those credits and get their refunds as soon as possible.”

During the 2020 tax-filing season, United Way shifted from in-person to all-virtual services because of the pandemic and helped 11,000 clients secure $19 million in tax refunds. In Washington state, more than 400,000 eligible families received a total of $867 million in EITC—an average of $2,143 per filer.

To support economic relief from the COVID-19 pandemic, Washington said the U.S. Congress passed a new “lookback rule,” which means if a tax filer earned less in 2020, they can use either the 2019 or 2020 income on their taxes—whichever one gets them the most money back.

This year, United Way will have additional help for the program. 

“We are proud to be partnering with AmeriCorps, VISTA’s and AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps members to help provide tax filing services this year,” Washington said.

United Way’s tax prep services will be offered until April 18th.  

The Free Tax Prep Program is sponsored by the City of Seattle, Foster School of Business, Bank On Washington and the Financial Empowerment Network.