Families Maximize Refunds by Visiting Free Tax Sites

Published on March 10, 2022 in

 

Stephannie Brown thought preparing her own taxes would be simple and save her some cash. Instead, she ended up with a year-long headache. 

“I messed up on my taxes last year when I did it online myself,” she said. “The city said I did the federal part wrong. The government said I did the city part wrong. I still haven’t gotten my refund. It’s frustrating.” 

To help prevent tax-filing issues like those Stephannie faced, United Way offers free resources, including MyFreeTaxes.com, which makes it easy to file with virtual guidance or to file on your own and get help when you need it.  

This year, instead of filing on her own, Stephannie visited Accounting Aid Society for free tax preparation on the advice of a friend who heard about last year’s tax filing fiasco. 

“I was a little nervous, but it was a simple process,” she said. “They got me in and out.” 

Stephannie, who is currently unemployed and caring for her 9-year-old granddaughter, qualified for the Child Tax Credit (CTC) — an additional boost to her income during a difficult time. 

From childcare and education resources to free tax prep and financial coaching, United Way for Southeastern Michigan partners with hundreds of organizations across the region to provide services that help families become stable and ensure children can thrive.  

Free tax preparation services are provided by IRS-certified nonprofit partners, including Accounting Aid Society, Wayne Metro Community Action Agency and Macomb County Veteran’s Services. Anyone who made $58,000 or less in 2021 qualifies for free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) services. 

This year, VITA sites run by Accounting Aid and Wayne Metro are focused on helping families take advantage of the expanded CTC, which saw a one-time increase in funds provided to families with children in 2021. 

Scheduling for appointments with Accounting Aid and Wayne Metro is available through our easy-to-use online tool or by calling 2-1-1.  For appointments at locations in Macomb County, use the Macomb County Veteran’s Services’ scheduling tool. 

Maximizing your return 

“Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for busy families to file their taxes and take advantage of all the available credits that put more money in their pockets,” said Megan Thibos, director of economic mobility initiatives at United Way for Southeastern Michigan. 

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan recently called the new Child Tax Credit a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” for filers. Eligible families receive up to $3,600 for each child in their care under the age of six and up to $3,000 per year for children ages six to 17. 

Wynette Emerson, a mother of five, received the credit, which meant a larger-than-expected return. 

“It’s nice to have a little extra cushion,” Wynette said. “Most of the time people are just working to pay bills. With your tax return, you can do a little something extra. I pay for all my kids sports with that money and we’re also going to take a family trip this year.”  

Wynette has been getting her taxes done for free with Accounting Aid Society for the past 12 years. 

“I don’t know why anyone would pay to get their taxes done,” she said. “I remember paying $500-$600 before I found out about Accounting Aid. Now that’s money in my pocket.” 

Don’t miss out on money 

Recent changes to the tax law mean that more workers than ever before are eligible for valuable credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). If you worked at all in 2021, you may qualify for the EITC, which provides extra income to workers with low to moderate incomes, up to $58,000.  

“Due to inflation and the ongoing pandemic, the cost of everything from gas to food is rising, making it even more difficult for working families to make ends meet,” Megan said. “We don’t want anyone leaving money on the table this tax season simply because they failed to file taxes or didn’t receive all the credits they were eligible for.” 

A tax return can be life-changing for a family – providing extra funds for a rainy day, to pay off debt, or in some cases, to change the entire trajectory of their lives. 

Priscilla Copney, who works with Accounting Aid Society through their VITA Program, recently shared the story of one of her clients – a single mother who was unhoused.  

“She was having a really hard time and ended up living in a motel with her kids,” Priscilla said. “She started crying when I told her she would be receiving $16,000 back from her tax return.” 

 “It just goes to show that the work we do is so worth it.” 

She encourages others to make an appointment and get their taxes done. “If you don’t file, you don’t know what you might be missing out on.” 

People in Wayne and Oakland counties can schedule a free tax appointment using United Way’s simple online scheduling tool. Those in Macomb County can schedule using Macomb County Veteran’s Services scheduling tool