United Way’s Tax Preparation Service: No Cha-Ching! Necessary

By United Way of King County, on April 8, 2024 | In Breaking the Cycle of Poverty, News

There are several reasons why you should allow United Way of King County’s resourceful tax team to prepare your taxes for free. Here’s one worth amplifying:

According to Portland-based Pacific Northwest Tax Service, the average cost in the Pacific Northwest to file a very simple tax return—meaning a return with W-2 income only, no dependents, no deductions, and no credits—is at least $430.

Why spend all that money when you can take advantage of our Free Tax Preparation Campaign? We offer free tax services to residents who make less than $80,000 a year (or less than $96,000 for non-single filers).

Funded by United Way, the IRS, and the City of Seattle, the Free Tax Preparation Campaign runs until Sunday, April 21. Services are available at 18 different locations across King County. Virtual assistance is also available through our online tax site.

United Way’s IRS-certified tax preparation specialists will help clients understand their tax situation and take advantage of credits like the Earned Income Credit, Child Tax Credit, and the Working Families Tax Credit to maximize their refund.

Last year, nearly 14,000 people took advantage of our free tax prep services, and we helped them claim more than $13 million in state and federal tax credits and refunds. This year, our tax sites are bustling with clients who are sparing themselves an exorbitant—if not unnecessary—cost.

“I have people coming in, having paid to have their return done last year, and I see their receipts, and I can’t believe how much they’ve paid,” said Casey Lantz, United Way’s outreach and relationship coordinator for tax credits and financial stability. “And it’s for super simple returns that literally take me about 15 minutes to do.”

Speaking on the latest episode of United Way’s podcast, Hourglass, Lantz, and Ryan McFerran (United Way’s program manager for tax credits and financial stability) said that it’s not unusual for folks to feel stressed while trying to navigate our complex tax filing laws. That might prompt some to believe that they need to spend extra to ensure that their taxes are done accurately.

But that’s not necessary, they said.

“They’re so easy, and yet people are getting charged so much,” Lantz added. “People are getting charged quite a lot of money for fairly uncomplicated situations.”

McFerran said that even using online tax preparation services can be costly.

“One of the most prominent providers of self-filing software often charges a fee that they will take out of your refund,” said McFerran. “But there is a $40 fee to take that money out of your refund. So, they’re charging money on top of what they’re already asking you to pay.

“Also, with the state’s Working Families Tax Credit, there are professional preparers out there that are charging fees to apply for that credit on behalf of clients, despite the fact that it’s a pretty simple process,” McFerran added. “Other things like amending a return, which is also pretty simple, can cost additional money for those who go the professional tax preparation route.”

It could not be a better time to opt for a free tax service, given the current high costs for rent, utilities, and groceries. According to Census data collected by HelpAdvisor, Washington state has the fourth-highest average grocery bill among the contiguous 48 U.S. states. Seattle has the sixth-highest weekly grocery bill among metro areas, HelpAdvisor said.

Our Free Tax Prep Campaign can help you save on upfront costs to prepare your taxes and we might even help you secure a refund. For more information about the service—particularly locations and times for our 18 locations, click here.


All comments are approved before they are posted to the site.