Five Things Volunteers Love About United Way’s Free Tax Prep Program

By Cesar Canizales Posted on October 16, 2020 In Breaking the Cycle of Poverty, Volunteering

Everyone hates doing taxes—except for perhaps accountants and tax lawyers. The language on IRS forms is confusing, you have to make sure you have all your forms and receipts, and the wait to see whether you owe is a teeth-grinding, hair-pulling experience.

However, at United Way of King County, we look forward to tax season! Assisting people get refunds helps many of them break the cycle of poverty, which impacts people of color at higher rates relative to their share of the population.

We love doing taxes, especially for other people. Earlier this year, I was one of about 1,000 Free Tax Preparation volunteers who fanned out across the county, ready to take on the task of sorting through W2s, 1098s, 1099s and other tax documents.

But that was before the coronavirus pandemic hit the region, and United Way was forced to shut all tax prep sites to reduce the risk of spreading the virus and went digital or offered services via phone. Our volunteers did a great job getting filers all the credits and deductions they were entitled to without having to expose themselves or the clients to the disease.

United Way will again offer tax prep services online this coming filing season. While we won’t be able to meet clients, doing tax preparation this way will keep volunteers and clients safe—and they’ll be able to do it from the comfort of their own homes!

So, what is it that volunteers love so much about the Free Tax Prep program? How about this:

  • We love to help low- and moderate-income people get their tax breaks, which means higher refunds for them. Last year, we helped to secure more than $18.8 million for nearly 11,400 tax filers. “There is not enough to live even close to the way that I used to,” said a client. “I am a 73-year-old woman trying to maintain my dignity, so I’m thankful for organizations such as yours that do taxes for free.”
  • Those who file early have more time to pay if they owe. While we try to find all the tax breaks that filers can use, it’s not always enough for a refund. But we can help to reduce that burden. “I tried to do my own taxes through free sites from the IRS web page, and my first result ended with me owing $700,” another filer said. “The second attempt had me owing $1,200. The end result of utilizing free professional assistance was a tax bill of only $380. Saved me lots of money and a major headache due to pulling my own hair out in frustration!”
  • We save taxpayers money by doing their taxes for free. “It helped me make sure that my taxes were being done correctly and saved me money that I would’ve otherwise spent to have someone else do my taxes,” said a recent college who didn’t have the means to spend money on this service.
  • We help those with language barriers. “I am an immigrant from Central America, and I don’t understand the tax system, but I really trust the help I have been receiving,” said a filer.
  • Taxes can be complicated, so we love to help those might struggle with them. “I am lost with tax rules and procedures. I have no tax knowledge,” said another client. “It really saved me from neglecting to get my taxes done. Without this service, I certainly would have delayed and probably would have paid a lot.  I think this was one thing that made my life a little better.”

The refunds we help filers obtain can be quite substantial and help those who are living paycheck-to-paycheck, so they can make a real difference in people’s lives. As a first-year tax prep volunteer, I enjoyed seeing tax filers’ reactions when they found out how much they would get. I would encourage those who have the time and willingness to sign up to give back to the community!


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