Home mortgage interest deduction…CHECK. Child care deduction..CHECK. Charitable contributions…CHECK. These deductions, depending on your tax bracket, lower your tax liability and can return thousands of dollars to you and your family in refunds, right?
Now imagine being unaware of those deductions and leaving them unclaimed. That’s what an estimated one in five low income workers does each year in Massachusetts, leaving behind an average refund of $2,081 per individual filer that could be used to pay down debt or put toward a house or car down payment. It also adds up to over $210 million left unclaimed in Massachusetts, money that could help to fuel local businesses and help families thrive.
Enter United Way’s network of Financial Stability Centers, which are offering free tax preparation services right now to help individuals claim the credits and deductions they are eligible to receive. In partnership with leading community-based organizations in Lawrence, Quincy, Chelsea, Roxbury and Downtown Boston, these centers not only provide free tax preparation, they also connect individuals to a wide range of job training, housing, financial education and budget coaching services to help provide greater economic opportunity.
Take Marleen, who walked through the doors of CONNECT, our financial stability center in Chelsea that operates in partnership with The Neighborhood Developers. A new immigrant, Marleen came to learn more about “how things works in the U.S.” She opened a checking and savings account and learned how to write checks She received employment services, tax preparation services and took technology classes. She has been employed for over a year and has gone from not having any credit to a score of 676 in one year. She is now learning how to drive and saving for a car in order to help widen her employment opportunities even more.
“Since the first time I stepped through the door, I was well received, with great customer service,” Marleen says. “When I met my financial coach, we immediately connected. She’s taught me so much and I trust her judgment completely. Anytime I have questions about how things work, I call for her opinion and it’s working out extremely well. I feel encouraged at each step of the way, from building credit to preparing for better job opportunities.”
Last year, our Financial Stability Center network helped 202 people find jobs. In addition, clients of the services saw a median increase of $469 in their monthly net income, a median increase of $3,588 in their net worth, and a median increase of 31 points in credit scores. Our partners in these innovative centers include the City of Boston, Lawrence Community Works, Lynn Housing and Neighborhood Development, Quincy Community Action Programs, The Neighborhood Developers, LISC Boston and Jewish Vocational Services.
“Partnerships like these are smart strategies to help us mind the gap on income inequality and help more families and neighborhoods thrive,” says Michael K. Durkin, President at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. “Together, we’re creating a clear route out of poverty and low-wage jobs into financial stability and success.”