As COVID-19 Devastates the Economy, Free Tax Prep Continues to Help Families
As the coronavirus pandemic descended upon King County, many institutions that are dedicated to helping people overcome poverty and homelessness began to reduce operations or find alternate ways to assist them.
United Way of King County was no exception, and in early March many of the programs the organization administers had to move quickly to offer help online or via phone, rather than in person.
The Free Tax Prep program, for example, had to change from offering tax preparation at 33 locations in King County to an online format. Once the change was implemented, United Way tax experts began helping members of the community claim all the tax credits to which they are entitled. The IRS estimates that 20% of households do not claim the Earned Income Tax Credit, a strong tool to lift many people out of poverty.
Maya, a mother of three and a caretaker for her disabled father, had submitted her 2019 documents online to United Way for processing, but she was worried she wasn’t going to get her stimulus check because she had not yet filed her 2019 or 2018 taxes with the IRS.
Once her documents were in, a tax expert thoroughly reviewed her previous filings and found an error from her 2016 taxes that entitled her to an additional refund for that year. Fortunately, Maya submitted her paperwork just before the April 15 deadline for refunds for that year, so that netted her an extra $2,000.
The tax expert did some additional research about caretaker credits and found that Maya qualified for them, which also increased the amount she would get back.
Thanks to the tax preparer’s diligence, Maya will receive a $10,000 refund for 2019 and $8,000 for 2018, which, combined with 2016, brought the total amount in refunds to about $20,000. In addition, she will also receive her stimulus money.
While the pandemic wreaks havoc in our community, United Way has adapted to continue to help families become financially stable, and the online format for tax prep is helping to get families through this crisis.