Beginning Monday, January 18, United Way of the Mid-South will launch our 19th year of our Free Tax Preparation program, in conjunction with the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. We will again prepare and file taxes -- for free -- for low-to-moderate income families. Providing IRS-certified tax preparers, our Free Tax Prep program helps eligible Mid-Southerners -- individuals and families whose household income was below $57,000 in 2020 -- take advantage of every applicable deduction, like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Helping customers achieve economic mobility, a goal of our United Way, our Free Tax Prep program allows individuals to have additional dollars to use at their discretion, by passing up private and commercial tax preparers with huge fees, by paying nothing to get assistance with filing, and by receiving and keeping the entire amount of their refunds.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring and in consideration of the health and well-being of both tax preparers and tax filers seeking help with their tax returns, United Way of the Mid-South innovated its process to minimize face-to-face tax preparation, by implementing a creative, low-risk alternative - a Drive-Thru Drop-Off solution. Having received national recognition from the IRS Commissioner and United Way Worldwide, this same method will be used for the 2021 tax season. Filers can walk or drive through Free Tax Prep locations and receive quality tax preparation and assistance with how to best utilize their refunds.
“Economic mobility is a pivotal factor in addressing generational poverty,” said Rev. Kenneth S. Robinson, M.D., President and CEO, United Way of the Mid-South. “So, it’s important that Mid-Southerners understand how to file their taxes correctly to ensure they get the most out of their returns, especially when an even larger portion of our community is facing financial hardship during the pandemic. More than ever, our United Way feels compelled to help our neighbors avoid predatory fees, claim maximal tax credits, and keep every dollar they receive in refunds. No doubt, this will truly assist low-to-moderate income families in moving “from where they are to where they dream to be.”
This year, United Way of the Mid-South is partnering with Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital and Porter-Leath’s Early Success Coalition on a newly created Tax Impact Project (TIP). TIP will use the combined resources of Le Bonheur, Early Success Coalition and our United Way to reach the largest customer base possible in the Memphis area. By allowing United Way’s Free Tax Prep/VITA program to add additional mobile tax prep sites, the partnership will provide free tax preparation to more individuals who are eligible for EITC and might have used “paid” preparers in prior years, and will increase the number of unduplicated households receiving EITC refunds annually by 2,000 over three years.
“Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital is focused on helping children grow up healthy, safe and well. I am elated that Le Bonheur and our partners are working to ensure families have access to trusted resources and information through Free Tax Prep,” said Michael Wiggins, President and CEO, Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. “We are committed to helping families learn about and utilize this community resource.”
“The Earned Income Tax Credit has been hailed as one of the most effective anti-poverty policies in American history, and the Early Success Coalition is thrilled to play a part in helping all qualifying Memphians take advantage of this opportunity,” said Kellie Mitchell, Director, Early Success Coalition. “It’s rare to provide a service that puts money directly back in the pockets of local families. With EITC, we can ensure working parents retain the funds they’ve earned to provide for their children and families at no charge to them.”
United Way’s Free Tax Prep will operate the Drive-Thru (or Walk-Up) Drop-Off model at 23 sites -- five super sites, four mobile sites and 14 partner sites -- where customers can drop off the appropriate documentation and pick up their returns when completed. Filers should bring a photo ID for themselves and their spouses, social security cards and birthdates for themselves, spouses and dependents, all W2s,1099s and information on any other income, total paid to daycare and the daycare’s tax ID number, and account information for direct deposit. If married filing jointly, both spouses must be present. This socially distanced approach provides a safe and effective way for customers to have their taxes filed by a professional with minimal contact.
To learn more, please visit www.uwmidsouth.org/free-tax-prep.