As we enter tax season, it’s essential to recognize the impact that tax refunds have on the financial well-being of countless families. However, despite the potential benefits, many families do not maximize their refund because they are not aware of available credits. In fact, 1 in 5 families misses out on the Earned Income Tax Credit, which results in an additional $2,100 on their refund.
At United Way, we believe that empowering individuals to make the most of their tax return is a step forward in building resilient and thriving communities. That’s why we are committed to providing free tax preparation services to families across our region, including a free online service – myfreetaxes.com with access to volunteers who assist over the phone.
Through these efforts, United Way’s community partners are projected to help prepare taxes for over 2,300 people, leveraging over $4 million in returns. Earned Income Tax Credit refunds make up at least $1 million, providing a necessary tax support. Furthermore, volunteers will spend approximately 5,000 hours working with clients, providing vital support and expertise to those who need it most.
VITA volunteer, Tom, shares just how surprised many families are when they receive their return. “When you see that happen, you really feel good about volunteering. You’re helping people in their everyday lives.”
By offering these services, we hope to raise awareness of the significant role that tax refunds can play in supporting the financial stability of families and the wider community. We’ve created a Free Taxes F.A.Q. to help make tax refunds and tax credits easier to understand.
Free Taxes F.A.Q.
Am I eligible for free taxes and where do I start?
The eligibility criteria for free tax preparation services can vary depending on the program or service being used.
- (ONLINE) United Way’s myfreetaxes.com has no income limit and offers IRS-certified call support throughout the process. Best of all, it will make a connection to a volunteer income tax assistance (VITA) site if in-person assistance is needed.
- (ONLINE) Another online option is GetYourRefund – a nonprofit service provided by Code for America in partnership with IRS-certified VITA sites nationally. GetYourRefund helps people file their taxes with the assistance they need to do it right. This service is free for families earning under $66,000 annually, available in English and Spanish, and accessible through your phone, tablet, or computer.
- (IN-PERSON) If you reside in Boston, the Boston Tax Help Coalition also offers free tax preparation services in 9 languages for those who worked in 2022 and earned $60,000 or less. You can learn more about that here.
- (IN-PERSON) In-person assistance at a Free Tax Prep VITA Agency is available to taxpayers who earn $60,000 or less per year.
What criteria might affect my eligibility?
You may not be eligible for free taxes if you require a complicated return, such as a Complicated Schedule D for capital gains or losses, do not have a Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), or need other forms completed before tax filing. For more information on what a VITA tax preparer can and cannot prepare and what documents are needed, please visit this IRS page. We recommend contacting your interested site to confirm eligibility.
Can I use free tax prep services if I’m self-employed?
Yes! United Way is proud to introduce a new way for small business owners to save on taxes and maximize profit by filing their taxes for free through MyFreeTaxes!
Available now at www.myfreetaxes.com/selfemployed, the MyFreeTaxes Self-Employed Tax Guides equip entrepreneurs with the information they need to prepare for tax season, file their taxes, and maximize their refunds using free online software.
United Way created three versions of the MyFreeTaxes Self-Employed Tax Guides to meet the specific needs of general small business owners, gig economy entrepreneurs, and home-based childcare businesses. All the guides are available in PDF and video formats, in English and Spanish.
This new resource will help ensure all entrepreneurs have access to safe, free, and accurate tax filing services: www.myfreetaxes.com/selfemployed
What do I need to file my taxes for free?
It’s important to have all the correct documents for filing taxes at a VITA site or online. Find a list of what you will need for filing taxes here.
What is the EITC and do I qualify?
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a federal tax credit for individuals and families with low to moderate incomes. The EITC is designed to provide financial assistance to workers who have earned income but may not earn enough to support themselves or their families.
You may be eligible for the EITC if you are:
The IRS has created an EITC Assistant here to help you calculate if you are eligible.
What is the CTC and do I qualify?
The Child Tax Credit (CTC) is a federal tax credit that provides financial assistance to eligible taxpayers with qualifying children. The credit is designed to help families with the cost of raising children and can be worth up to $3,600 per child, depending on the child’s age and other factors.
You may be eligible for the CTC if:
- Your child/children are between the ages of 0 to 17 (children must have a Social Security number to be eligible)
- $3,600 per child ages 0–5
- $3,000 per child ages 6–17
To receive the full CTC taxpayers cannot make more than:
- $150,000 for married taxpayers filing a joint return and qualifying widows/widowers
- $112,500 for heads of household
- $75,000 for all other taxpayers
- Credit gets progressively smaller as income rises.
The IRS has created a tool to help you determine if you qualify for the CTC here.
What is VITA and how can it help me?
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is an initiative of the IRS that offers free tax preparation services to eligible individuals and families with low to moderate incomes. United Way provides funding, resources, and volunteer support to local VITA programs, which helps to increase access to free tax preparation services for eligible taxpayers.
VITA sites are staffed by volunteers who are trained and certified by the IRS to provide free basic income tax return preparation and e-filing services. By supporting the VITA program, we are ensuring that eligible taxpayers in our community have access to free, high-quality tax preparation services and can claim the credits and deductions they are entitled to. This can help to increase financial stability for families and individuals and support the economic well-being of our communities.
“At the end of the day, people getting their returns done at a VITA site can be assured that they’re getting and keeping their full return and their taxes will be prepared correctly. I don’t know if that is true for every fee-based service out there,” Tom – longtime VITA volunteer
Find your local VITA site here.
What is the best way to use my tax return?
How to use a tax return depends on your individual financial situation and goals. However, here are some general ideas on the best ways to use a tax return.
“People should treat their infusion of cash as a one-time event and adopt “conserve” as their mantra. Managing a tax refund well has, for many people, never been more important,” advises Jim Graham, Quincy Community Action Program (QCAP) financial coach.
How can I help people get assistance?
With your donations, United Way provides financial support to VITA sites including Quincy CAP, Chelsea Connect, JVS-Boston, and Roxbury Center for Financial Empowerment, among others in Boston, Salem, and Lawrence.
Spread the word
These services are only effective if people know about them so help get the word out! Do you have employees, or program participants who would benefit from free tax prep? This marketing packet will make it easy for you to share about these services on social media.
Free tax preparation relies on dedicated, trained volunteers who are willing to donate their time during tax season. Most sites recruit their tax preparation volunteers in the summer and early fall. While tax season is already underway this year, recruitment for next year is just a few months away! Let a site in your community know that you’d like to help next year.
Learn more about the importance of this work from Abraham, a Boston Tax Help Coalition returning volunteer:
Commenting on what brings him back to volunteer, Abraham says “The joy!” He knows that for the clients the tax process can be scary, and that there is the fear of the unknown. And he thinks about, “how can we alleviate that?”
He knows that the VITA volunteers have been thoroughly trained through the Boston Tax Help Coalition on assisting with returns similar to what they see every day at sites across the coalition. Confident in the work that he and the other volunteers are doing, and knowing the “return” for the volunteer is just as great as it is for the client, Abraham puts out the call for all to volunteer, “We can always use more people!”