Now more than ever, United Way needs Tax-Prep volunteers to provide free tax service

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Needed United Way Free Tax-Prep volunteers. Photo via United Way of Central Alabama

United Way of Central Alabama (UWCA) is seeking volunteers for its highly regarded tax preparation program.

A free service, United Way’s Free Tax Preparation program needs a steady influx of volunteers to meet our community’s needs.


Recently, we sat down with UWCA’s Judy Allen, Director of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Doug Horst, the Director of Financial Stability Services to discuss why helping people with their taxes matters and how local Central Alabama residents can make a difference by becoming a Tax-Prep volunteer.

United Way
UWCA’s Judy Allen, Director of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Doug Horst, the Director of Financial Stability Service. Photo via United Way of Central Alabama

Read on to learn how you can join the program.

United Way Serving thousands

United Way
United Way Free Tax Prep logo

“We’ve been providing this service for 15 years,” Judy Allen told me right at the beginning of our interview.

“Over the course of that time, we have thousands of customers who have used the Free Tax-Prep service and established trust in us as a free, reliable place that they can turn to get their taxes done accurately.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic the program served nearly 3600 local residents bringing more than $2 million in tax refunds back to our community each year.  Throughout the pandemic, United Way has continued providing this service, while keeping volunteers and customers safe.

Now, more than ever the Free Tax-Prep service is needed.

“As a result of COVID, there are more people than ever, who want help with their taxes because there have been tax law changes,” Allen added. “There are new benefits such as the expanded child tax credit,and expanded dependent care credit that helps with daycare costs. Even people who do their own taxes are looking for more guidance and help.”

All Volunteers Welcomed

United Way
Photo courtesy of United Way of Central Alabama

Are you ready to volunteer?

Let’s shatter one myth about volunteering for UWCA Tax Prep from the get-go. You do NOT need to have professional experience in accounting or finance to help. The United Way welcomes volunteers from all backgrounds who are willing to provide valuable tax assistance to our community. 

Bottomline: If you are willing to go through the necessary training, you can volunteer.

The Process

How do you get trained as a Tax-Prep volunteer?

“Basically the first step is to register, let us know you are interested,” said Allen. “Then we’ll send you an invitation. You have a choice of several different days that you can participate in training. The class is a day long. It’s interactive. It’s also recorded if you want to go back and review it after the class. We’ll have it virtually or you can come and do the training in our workspace. It all depends on what that person’s preferences are.”

Birmingham Alabama
Photo via United Way of Central Alabama

Doug Horst provided a step by step guide on how to become a Certified IRS Income Tax Preparer:

  • Let United Way know you are interested: Sign up at  www.uwca.org/taxvol 
  • The  program will  send you an invitation to register for training
  • Pick from a variety of training options to fit your schedule and preferred style.
  • Attend one-day training online or in-person covering IRS open book certification: multiple dates offered in November and December
  • Complete IRS open book certification test
  • Provide your certification and volunteer forms to UWCA who completes background check
  • Sign up for your volunteer schedule beginning in January.  You are ready to start!

Safe Workplace – Options

Along with making it easy to get trained, the program has also instituted a number of safeguards to ensure the Tax-Prep volunteers and customers are safe from COVID-19.

“We are structuring our workspaces, where they’re all partitioned and socially distant, so that they can be a very safe environment for people to volunteer,” explained Allen. “We’re offering our customers options. They can send us their tax information through a secure website by taking pictures with their phone, or make an appointment and drop-off their documents in person.”

The organization adheres to very strict IRS information security and confidentiality to protect your information.

Save People Money – Rewarding

United Way
Photo via United Way of Central Alabama

Volunteering for the Free Tax -Prep program is instantly rewarding because every return that you prepare is saving our neighbors a minimum of $200, in preparation fees.

“It’s huge!” concluded Horst.  “It is a fairly big training commitment compared to some other walk up volunteer opportunities, but it’s a huge payoff, in terms of the impact it has on the community.”

Volunteer Today

Tax-PrepTraining begins soon, so now is the time to sign up to get your invitation to training. If you have questions,contact us at taxvol@uwca.org. 

Make a difference. Join— volunteer with the Free Tax-Preparation Program today.

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Pat Byington
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.
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