United Way releases ‘Newark Free Tax Preparation’ report – Essex News Daily

NEWARK, NJ — On Dec. 15, United Way of Greater Newark released its annual “Newark Free Tax Preparation” report, which this year details findings about tax year 2019 on Newark residents in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. This report highlights the economic benefits of filing for tax returns and the critical role of free tax-filing services, particularly during the global pandemic, which has had a detrimental economic impact on moderate- and low-income residents in Newark.

Each year, UWGN and other member organizations partner with the Newark Asset Building Coalition to provide Newark residents with access to free tax-filing services. The Newark Free Tax Prep Program works with the IRS and the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program to increase the number of residents who receive free income tax assistance, as well as the number of recipients of earned income tax and other tax credits.

The earned income tax credit is considered to be the largest anti-poverty program for working families in the United States, and the report sheds light on this important program and the effect it has had in Newark. In the 2019 tax year, VITA tax clients served by the NABC received tax returns of more than $12 million, of which more than $4.5 million was through the earned income tax credit. The report also delves into wealth inequality in America and financial relief from the economic impact payments to taxpayers as a result of the 2020 CARES Act.

“Free tax-filing services are always critically important; however, this year, at a time when the economic impact of the shutdown has been enormous, it was even more important for us to continue providing these services to our hardworking residents,” said Catherine Wilson, president and CEO of UWGN. “We are grateful to our member organizations and volunteers for their commitment to providing services that help residents file their taxes virtually and offering contact-free ways for individuals to drop off their documents in person. A big thank you to Citi and Prudential for their continued support and partnership as well.”

“Free tax preparation services and tax credits, like the earned income tax credit, are critical tools to help eligible workers strengthen their financial stability,” said Gregory Schiefelbein, Citi community relations tristate market lead. “We applaud the efforts of the Newark Asset Building Coalition to transition and deliver their services virtually and safely in-person, and their continued commitment to better understand and meet the needs of Newark residents.”

“The data contained in this report is vital for understanding the impact of the Newark Free Tax Preparation program — who is being served and who still needs help,” said Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, executive director at New Jersey Citizen Action. “We are proud to be part of the NABC. The money that families save by having their taxes prepared through this program can be a literal lifesaver during a pandemic that disproportionately affects low-income individuals and communities of color. Our thanks to the staff and volunteers that make it all possible.”

The report identifies tax filers by demographic group and income bracket to showcase how this tax year compared to previous years. Findings showcase that extra savings earned from free tax-filing services are used to support the basic needs of tax filers, including paying for rent, utility, medical, car, childcare, home repair, groceries and clothing. Key findings include:

  • The race and ethnicity of VITA participants closely mirrors the race and ethnicity of the city of Newark, especially those making less than $60,000 per year. This is a sign that the Newark Building Asset Coalition served the community evenly.
  • The majority of VITA tax clients in Newark have incomes of less than $25,000 annually.
  • Participants overwhelmingly use their return to pay bills and reduce debt.
  • The proportion of men to women served is about the same as the last two years; 59 percent of Newark Free Tax Prep participants are women, aligned with 60 percent in the last year and 61 percent in tax year 2017.
  • A little more than half of participants, 52 percent, had full-time jobs, while a quarter, 26 percent, held part-time jobs.
  • There is a balanced distribution of tax filers across all age ranges, which demonstrates how there doesn’t seem to be a disparity in marketing and outreach to different age groups.

The full report is available at https://uwnewark.org/wp-content/uploads/NABC-Annual-Report_Updated-Final-Copy-1.pdf

For the 2020 tax year, the NABC is prepared to provide entirely contactless tax preparation through the online platform, Get Your Refund, as well as through five in-person drop-off locations around greater Newark. For more information, visit www.UWNewark.org.