Economic Prosperity

Guest blog by Marshall Hunt, CPA, director of Tax Policy and Advocacy at Accounting Aid Society

February 16, 2018

Experienced accountant shares tax time message: If you earn, file a tax return

In my 45 years as a Certified Public Accountant, I’ve learned that tax returns can make a big difference in a family’s finances. Once, a woman with one child came into the Accounting Aid Society looking for help with filing her taxes. Her income for last year was $14,000. With the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, she received a refund of over $4,000—nearly one-third the amount she makes in a year.

Here are a few tips you can use to ensure you have an easy time filing taxes and get your biggest available refund.

Volunteer training with Accounting Aid Society

Marshall Hunt of the Accounting Aid Society trains a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance volunteer.

Always file a tax return

If you have any earned income from the previous year, you should file a tax return. Period.

The IRS does not require people who fall below a certain income threshold to file a tax return, but you may still be eligible for tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit. And with plenty of free options to file, there’s really nothing to stop you.

As was the case with the woman I helped recently, you might get a refund that could change your life.

Tools like MyFreeTaxes make filing easy 

When I began working for the Internal Revenue Service in 1968, returns were mailed in.

Now, with e-filing, completing your taxes is easier than ever, whether you’re using paid software or a free service, like MyFreeTaxes. Provided by United Way and H&R Block, MyFreeTaxes is available to anyone making under $66,000 a year.

Most software will ask you questions about your income and deductions, making it hard to miss tax credits that you’re eligible for.

Learn your options for getting tax preparation help

I encourage everyone to try learning to do their own taxes, but if you need help, check to see if you qualify for free assistance through an organization like Accounting Aid Society or Wayne Metro Community Action Agency.

Tax sites are open throughout Wayne County. We’ll help you file your taxes, give you advice on what to expect in the years to come, and connect you with a financial coach if you are wondering how to best use your refund.

In Detroit, neighborhood-based drop-and-go tax sites allow you to drop off your tax forms at a community location and pick up your completed return a week later.  While you’re there, you can take advantage of other services offered by our community partners.

If you do hire a paid accountant to help with your taxes, make sure you know ahead of time what your costs will be and what services they’re providing.

Take advantage of all available tax credits

Do you know what tax credits you’re eligible for? Here are a few everyone should know about

If you’re confused about your taxes, find a professional or Volunteer Income Tax Assistance tax preparer to assist you. Call United Way’s 2-1-1 helpline for more information. And don’t forget to file your taxes by April 15!

Marshall Hunt is the director of tax policy and advocacy at the Accounting Aid Society (AAS). Marshall worked for the IRS for 34 years before joining the team at AAS, and also served as a tax volunteer before joining the staff. Marshall said he enjoys using his skills to give back to the community and being able to see the direct impact his work has on the individuals AAS serves.