Don’t wait ‘till April 15—United Way provides free tax prep. See how it works.

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Photo courtesy of United Way of Central Alabama

Filing taxes may not be fun, but you might be able to file yours for free. United Way works closely with the Internal Revenue Service and other qualified partners such as local financial institutions to provide free income tax preparation, in-person and online.

Judy Allen, Director of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, has been with the free service since it was first offered in 2006. She is excited that new this year, anyone can file online regardless of income at MyFreeTaxes.com.

In 2019, United Way prepared more than 3,575 tax returns, and it has become a sought after service saving low to moderate-income individuals hundreds of thousands of dollars in service fees.

“We are very excited about this because one of the things I like about the tax program itself is the inclusivity,” added Allen. It isn’t something you have to go through a lot of hoops to see whether we can help you or not. Everyone can use the online service.”

A deaf client works through an interpreter to provide his tax information. Photo courtesy of United Way of Central Alabama

Face-to-face or Drop Off Tax Assistance

The tax preparers also offer specialized assistance if needed. A deaf client said he felt he had more ownership in his tax preparation using United Way’s services because he was able to work with an interpreter provided by the program.

Planning ahead is the key to a good experience

  1. Call 2-1-1, 1-888-421-1266, or click to make your appointment to meet a United Way Tax Assistance volunteer. You will meet at United Way of Central Alabama’s Headquarters—3600 8th Ave South Birmingham, AL 35222. There are Saturday appointments available.
  2. Depending on the day of your appointment, you can stay while a tax specialist prepares the form. At your first meeting, bring your social security card, driver’s license, or ID (if you’re filing jointly, you must bring that info too). Bring all your 2019 tax info, including your W2s, 1099s, and expenses (here’s the entire list). Or you can leave your information and schedule a followup appointment about one week later.
  3. By the next appointment, the United Way volunteer will have prepared the return for you. You will then supply any additional info you may need to add and discuss the return. Once the return is complete, sign it, and United Way will electronically file it with the state of Alabama and the Federal Government.
Photo courtesy of United Way of Central Alabama

“We want folks to know this is a safe place to do your taxes,” said Allen, “We’re here to serve you. We’ll go through great pains to make sure everything is accurate.”

Online tax services

In 2019, 480 people in the United Way of Central Alabama service area used MyFreeTaxes.com. Allen anticipates the program will grow much more in 2020.

More than just taxes

Besides filing taxes, participants in United Way’s Free Tax Prep Program receive information and recommendations about other services provided by United Way and their partners.

Photo courtesy of United Way of Central Alabama

For example, when volunteers learned from a customer that their family had high medical costs, in particular, prescription drug costs, they referred the customer to various programs that help reduce those expenses. Senior RX is one such program.

If a customer is having financial difficulties, volunteers can direct customers to the many United Way financial education classes which are free to the public.

“It is great to be part of a network of lots of helpful services. We are here to serve people,” Allen concluded.

A year-round program

Also remember, the United Way Free Tax Prep program is not just a 4-month service. Sometimes people miss filing taxes because a loved one is ill or a family has fallen on hard times. The service is available year-round to help people with extensions and resolve issues.

Why wait?

There really is no reason to wait until April. If you qualify, make an appointment and prepare to file your 2019 taxes with United Way. Want to do it online? Visit MyFreeTaxes.com

Don’t let your W2s and 1099s collect dust. Start getting your taxes done today.

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  • Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.