United Way’s Free Tax Preparation effort seeks 325 volunteers | Lifestyles

United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania is recruiting 325 volunteer tax preparers for its 2021-2022 Free Tax Preparation effort in Allegheny, Fayette, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

Volunteers complete tax returns for hard-working, low-income families and individuals, ensuring that everyone receives the full refunds they have earned and deserve.

“Receiving the maximum tax refund is vital for those struggling to make ends meet. The extra money could cover the cost of utilities to keep the lights on or pay for a car repair, so a mother can get to work and doesn’t lose her job,” said Alena Anderson, United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s program manager. “The work done by our volunteers could be life changing for many in the community.”

No prior tax preparation experience is necessary to volunteer during the season, which runs from January through mid-April. All volunteers must complete the IRS training and certification.

Due to COVID-19, training and services will be provided virtually, in-person and via drop off this year. All CDC guidelines will be observed. Some sites require in-person volunteers to be vaccinated.

Continuing education credits are available for professionals; internship opportunities are available for students.

“Our highly trained volunteers will be able to identify tax benefits many might not be aware of and work through complicated questions so the community can receive the refunds they deserve,” added Anderson. “This service is free of charge and helps relieve an additional stressor in the lives of vulnerable families.”

Last year across the region, 250 volunteers prepared more than 6,000 tax returns, delivering $10.7 million in refunds back to southwestern Pennsylvania residents. Although faced with complications due to the COVID-19 pandemic, United Way’s Free Tax Prep program was able help families avoid tax filing fees and receive millions of dollars of on-time refunds to help meet basic needs and move toward financial stability.

Volunteers help many working families obtain the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), one of the nation’s largest anti-poverty programs, which lets qualifying filers pay less federal tax, pay no tax or even get a tax refund of $1,500 to more than $6,000.

Additionally, volunteers can help families determine whether they qualify for the Child Tax Credit (CTC) to receive special monthly advance payments.

Volunteers must sign up before Dec. 31, 2021. Volunteers are needed at sites across Allegheny, Fayette, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties and can sign up at uwswpa.org/free-tax-preparation.

United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, serving Allegheny, Armstrong, Butler, Fayette and Westmoreland counties, “convenes and mobilizes the caring power of individuals, the business community and organizations to help local people meet basic needs, move toward financial stability and build success in school and life. Together with dedicated donors and caring volunteers, United Way creates long-lasting change for the betterment of our community.”