The Bloomingtonian

Press release: 2021 United Way Free Community Tax Service adapts to COVID-19, offers free tax preparation to Brown, Greene, and Monroe County residents

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 

1/26/2021                                                                                                             

2021 United Way Free Community Tax Service adapts to COVID-19, offers free tax preparation to Brown, Greene, and Monroe County residents 

United Way of Monroe County, along with other community partners, is pleased to provide the Free Community Tax Service during the upcoming tax season. Beginning February 1, IRS-certified volunteers will be working at six low-contact and two virtual sites throughout Monroe, Owen, and Brown counties where they will help Hoosiers who make less than $57,000 annually file their federal and state tax returns for free. 

Tax preparation is provided free of charge and volunteers work one-on-one with community members to ensure they receive 100% of their refund, including the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) if eligible. Residents will receive their tax returns quickly – usually within 21 days or less. 

Last year, the Free Community Tax Service program brought together 107 volunteers to help local residents file 1,636 federal returns, saving clients as much as $1,305,649 in tax preparation fees and bringing back more than $1,012,403 in refunds and credits, at 10 full-service VITA sites managed by United Way, plus 2 sites managed by AARP/TCE. Clients reported using those funds and the Earned Income Tax Credits to pay for food, clothing, bills, rent, and to put toward savings. 486 filers received Earned Income Tax credits. 

In conjunction with personal finance classes, free financial coaching, and the Bank on Bloomington program, the Free Community Tax Service is a key component of United Way of Monroe County’s financial stability initiatives.  

Amy Leyenbeck, Community Impact Director at United Way of Monroe County, says, “We are thrilled to be able to continue serving our community with this critical service, especially during this pandemic. Now more than ever people are going to be relying on their tax refunds and credits for financial assistance during this economic downturn. We are working hard to ensure a safe experience for everyone, and we are grateful that our clients trust us with their health and their tax returns.”  

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) 

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) can result in a significant income boost – up to $6,660 for those who qualify. The EITC is a refundable federal income tax credit for low- and moderate-income working individuals and families. A tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction of taxes owed. Since it is a refundable credit, when the EITC exceeds the amount of taxes owed, it results in a tax refund to those who claim and qualify for the credit. 

Unfortunately, 1 out of 5 people who are eligible don’t claim their credit. Claiming the EITC is particularly important at a time when more workers may qualify due to reduced incomes. In order to claim the EITC, residents must file their tax returns, even if they are not required to file for another reason. Luckily, United Way’s tax volunteers are trained to ensure everyone who is eligible can access the EITC and any other potential credits. 

Changes due to COVID-19 

The Free Community Tax Services has had to make some changes to provide free tax filing safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Six locations offer low-contact personal tax preparation assistance following COVID-19 health and safety precautions, and two locations offer virtual preparation.  

This year, no locations are certified to assist with preparation for nonresident taxpayers. Taxpayers who know the number of days they were present in the United States in 2018, 2019, and 2020, can calculate their residency status for tax purposes at www.monroeunitedway.org/freetaxes-residency. Nonresidents with any relation to Indiana University can contact the Office of International Services for assistance: www.ois.iu.edu

Unemployment 

Those who received unemployment income in 2020 are likely to owe some amount when filing their taxes. Tax preparers at the Free Community Tax Service can provide taxpayers with information about setting up a payment plan to help ease the burden of repaying owed taxes. 

Bilingual tax preparation assistance available 

The Free Community Tax Service team is partnering with the City of Bloomington again to provide a full-service Spanish Language tax site. Spanish speaking residents can file their taxes at this site with a certified bilingual volunteer, making the filing process much smoother and less intimidating for those residents. Appointments can be made in Spanish by calling (812) 349-3860 and the site will be open on Saturday mornings during tax season. 

Free, Convenient Online Filing 

Area residents with a combined Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of $72,000 or less can file online. Visit https://www.monroeunitedway.org/FreeFile to find a product that’s right for you.  

Community Partners 

Along with United Way of Monroe County and Financial Stability Alliance, partners of the Free Community Tax Service include 211, AARP, Broadview Learning Center, Brown County Public Library, City of Bloomington, Ivy Tech Community College-Bloomington, Monroe County Public Library, Owen County Public Library, the YMCA, and over 100 community volunteers. 

For more information 

To learn more about the Free Community Tax Service, free tax preparation sites dates and times, a tax preparation checklist, the EITC, and to see if they qualify, residents can visit www.MonroeUnitedWay.org/FreeTaxes

United Way of Monroe County is a nonprofit organization that improves people’s lives by addressing critical needs today and working to reduce those needs tomorrow. Through its Community Action Fund and grant initiatives, United Way works with 24 member agencies and community partners to ensure families have opportunities and everyone can meet basic living needs. For more information, visit www.MonroeUnitedWay.org.   

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