April 2, 2018

Tax preparation: Every dollar counts

Editor’s note: United Way partners Accounting Aid Society and Wayne Metro offer free in-person tax preparation to families who made $54,000 or less in 2017 and individuals who made $35,000 or less. United Way also offers free tax filing online to anyone who made less than $66,000 in 2017.

With her sister in the passenger seat and plastic flowers attached to the luggage rack, Cassandra Curry pulls her minivan into the parking lot of a tax preparation site on a blustery Detroit morning.

Cassandra’s smile is ever-present, but when she discusses her van, it grows wider. It’s reliable transportation to and from her job as a machine operator, and she also uses it to help her siblings, friends and members of her church run errands before her afternoon shift starts. Today, her older sister has a tax preparation appointment.

“I just want to give back, and I’ve got that heart to help people,” Cassandra said. She’s had her van for about a year now, thanks in part to free tax preparation offered by United Way for Southeastern Michigan and our partners, Accounting Aid Society and Wayne Metro Community Action Agency. She used the return she received in 2017 to purchase the van and this year, she’s using her return to have the struts and a malfunctioning passenger window repaired.

The in-person tax preparation services, as well as our free online services save filers an average of $200 on tax prep. It’s all part of our Economic Prosperity work. We’re helping people keep more of what they earn. In addition to free tax preparation, we offer specialized training that opens up access to good jobs, and we help families learn how to budget. When more people have access to these services, they’re better able to provide for their families.

“For many families in our region, every dollar counts. With an extra $200, people can catch up on their bills, put money toward a place to live or, like Cassandra, upgrade their transportation,” said Anita Martinez, director of financial stability and wealth building at United Way for Southeastern Michigan.

Last year, along with our partners, we helped 18,901 people in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties file their taxes for free. Our online service, MyFreeTaxes, is available for free to more than 100 million U.S. taxpayers.

Woman holds envelopes

Cassandra reviews her documents while heading in to her tax appointment with Accounting Aid Society.

‘Caring and sharing your love’

Cassandra’s signature flowers help her find the van in a sea of white vehicles in large parking lots, and they prompt her friends to honk or wave when they see her drive by.

Cassandra gives rides to siblings, friends and seniors that she knows. She says she’s had about 10 regular passengers, and she’s even driven two dogs to veterinarian appointments.

“This year, with what I’m getting back (from my tax return), I can fix up the van a little more, and hopefully I’ll get to take more seniors around so they won’t have to be catching cabs,” she said.

“I like doing that. I like caring for them. It makes me feel real good, and it makes them feel good that somebody’s patient with them.”

It’s more than just giving them a ride. Cassandra makes her passengers comfortable. She plays the music they like, and she’s sure to get her passengers to their appointments on time. She even has a fan for the front seat passenger because the window is stuck.

“You see the smile on their face,” she said. “People ask me why I smile. That’s why I smile. I’m here to make somebody else happy.”

She enjoys all of her trips, whether it’s to the bank, a convenience store or even another tax preparation appointment. She’s thankful for the tax services that made it all possible, and she loves to spread the word about them to family and friends.

“There are a lot of people in need and other people don’t have what you have,” she said.

“You share it. It’s not about the gas money. If my car’s full on gas, and God is going to bless me, I’ve just got to bless others.

“I just want to give. I’ve just got that heart.”