Volunteers Needed for In-Person Free Tax Prep Campaign (COVID Safe)
Marty Thompson volunteers in United Way of King County’s Free Tax Preparation campaign each year, which means in 2022 he’ll begin charging through labyrinths of line items, numbers and codes to help people win the tug-of-war with Uncle Sam for their hard-earned wages.
United Way is looking for 1,000 in-person volunteers like Thompson to enlist in our Free Tax Preparation campaign. Thompson, who has volunteered for the last 12 years, is among those who have helped thousands of filers claim all the tax credits and refunds that they’re entitled to, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). United Way has trained about 10,000 volunteers since launching the program in 2003, and we’ve helped filers secure millions of dollars in federal tax refunds.
We’re seeking volunteers to provide free tax preparation assistance from January through April at about 16 locations throughout the county. All locations exercise strict COVID-19 protocols for safety.
Thompson encourages volunteers to take part. He has prepared taxes as three locations; on average, he completes about 200 returns each year. It is one of his annual highlights: searching for itemized deductions like an archaeologist, connecting with people who often don’t understand the complicated tax process, then watching their eyes light up when their numbers add up to an unexpected windfall.
“I once did taxes for a couple of undocumented immigrants, and I went back a number of years in doing their taxes, and I ended up getting them $15,000 in refunds,” said Thompson, who prepares taxes for the Free Tax Prep campaign at Seattle Central College, Bellevue College and the Seattle Public Library Main Branch. He said most tax returns are filed in February, well before the filing deadline.
“I love taxes, and I love doing taxes,” Thompson added. “I’ll do taxes for anybody who needs taxes done. I volunteer to help them out. The connection with people is the most important thing. I love seeing people’s joy in getting their taxes done and just talking to people and getting to know them.”
The Free Tax Preparation Program is a key part of United Way’s goal to help 50,000 people rise out of poverty. In early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the program to move to 100% online— yet we still helped over 10,000 people file their taxes and secured more than $18 million in refunds. Last year, 300 volunteers took part in our virtual tax prep, due to COVID-19. This year, the program will be offered both virtually and in-person.
Volunteers are also available to help people connect to public benefits, financial counseling and other services.
Thompson encourages people to take part in the free program. And while he still completes returns past the current tax year, he cautions folks not to wait too long to file: The IRS doesn’t pay out refunds for returns older than four years.
“Get help if you’re not familiar with doing taxes,” Thompson said. “You can do it online or in person, but don’t try to do it yourself, because that’s what we do for people.”