SJ-R Column-Free help with filing your taxes

As originally published in the The State Journal Register.

With the end of the holiday season, it’s time for all of us to switch our focus to the new year and tax season. Even though we are still in the beginning of January, tax time will be here before you know it. For most of us, filing our income taxes is more of a chore instead of something fun and exciting. Wouldn’t it be easier to use a free and easy tax preparation service?

There are several programs which provide free tax preparation and assistance to local individuals and families. This marks the eleventh year that United Way and H&R Block have partnered to provide free tax filing services through MyFreeTaxes.com. For 2019, you can file both your federal and state returns for free using MyFreeTaxes.com with no income limits. Please note that this free service is for those who are not filing as a business owner. MyFreeTaxes users get access to H&R Block’s premium product with enhanced features to ensure filers get every dollar they deserve. This is the only free, online tax filing product offered by a nonprofit.

To help make filing your taxes online easier, MyFreeTaxes.com provides handy checklists, frequently asked questions and step-by-step instructions to walk you through the tax preparation process. In addition, MyFreeTaxes.com provides great tax savings tips on how you can make the most of your refund while saving the costs associated with tax preparation and refund advances.

In 2019, MyFreeTaxes helped individuals and families in Sangamon County receive income tax refund savings in excess of $168,000 and over $16,000 alone saved in fees. MyFreeTaxes comes with the same brand promise as all H&R Block’s products that consumers are guaranteed a maximum refund, 100 percent accuracy and 100 percent satisfaction.

MyFreeTaxes is easy, secure and guaranteed to be 100% accurate. Just upload a photo of your W-2 and MyFreeTaxes will automatically fill in your information. File your taxes from the palm of your hand using MyFreeTaxes. The mobile optimized MyFreeTaxes site enables most filers to complete their taxes in under one hour for free.

In addition to online assistance, Ladder Up, formerly the Center for Economic Progress, will open its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program on January 25. This program provides free, in-person tax assistance to families with incomes less than $56,000 (more than one person in home) or individuals with incomes less than $30,000. VITA will be housed in the Family Service Center’s building at 730 E. Vine St. More information can be found at www.goladderup.org or by calling 312-409-1555. If you are interested in volunteering with the VITA program, please visit www.volunteer.springfieldunitedway.org.

For senior citizens and low-income residents, the AARP Tax-aide program will begin accepting appointments for tax-preparation assistance towards the end of the month. AARP Tax-aide provides free, in-person tax assistance to families with incomes less than $55,000 or individuals with incomes less than $30,000. Although open to individuals of all ages, the program has a particular focus on preparing taxes and addressing issues affecting those age 50 and older. Information on locations and services will be available in late January/early February on AARP’s website at www.aarp.org.

We encourage you to use MyFreeTaxes.com or either of the in person options. Tax preparation assistance programs such as these are designed to not only address the tax issues facing your family, they help families avoid predatory tax preparers who often target low income families with costly services and products.

We ask for you to share this information everywhere. Share with your friends, families and neighbors. Share with your Human Resource department and coworkers. Be a game changer and help others be aware of these free services. You can find additional information and links to these local tax assistance programs by visiting our website at www.springfieldunitedway.org or by calling 211.

As one of our four issue areas, United Way fights for the financial stability of every person in our community. We are committed to providing individuals and families the education, skills and supports needed to live financially stable lives. United Way values its partners, including H&R Block, to provide this free online tax preparation software.

Mitch Baker is the Community Impact Manager at United Way of Central Illinois. Visit www.springfieldunitedway.org to learn more.