United Way partners offer free virtual tax prep, financial coaching for Metro Detroiters

Published on January 29, 2021 in ,

Note: This post describes pre-COVID services. For current information on virtual tax preparation services, visit our Tax Assistance webpage.

It’s the beginning of a new year, and with tax season at our doorsteps, finding an easy, affordable way to file is a priority. You can visit a free tax prep location today and start saving more of your money.

As part of our efforts to help households become stable, United Way for Southeastern Michigan supports convenient, free, in-person tax services for individuals who made less than $76,000 in 2020.

Larry Hardy receives financial coaching at United Way partner Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency.

Easy to find, easy to use

There are more than 50 locations across Metro Detroit where individuals can get their taxes done for free. IRS-certified volunteer tax preparers process each family’s tax return. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites are operated by our nonprofit tax-prep partners Accounting Aid Society and Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency in partnership with community partners such as Matrix Human Services.

“Part of the benefit is the ability to meet Detroiters where they are — in their neighborhoods, where they work, where their kids may be enjoying activities,” said Gabrielle Thomas, chief operating officer of Accounting Aid Society. “Working Detroiters and parents don’t need one more stop in what are often already long days.”

At Wayne Metro, which offers free tax preparation at a variety of times and locations throughout the county, staff are trained to help clients identify tax credits that increase their returns. This includes the Home Heating Credit, Child and Dependent Care Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

With larger returns, families can achieve more financial security by saving a portion of their refund.

“Having money set aside for an emergency can help defray added cost burdens and lessen financial stress,” said Wayne Metro CEO Louis D. Piszker. “With a rainy day fund, a family can handle a small setback. That is empowering.”

Clients can choose to wait while their tax returns are completed, or drop off their documents and return later. Once accepted by the IRS, e-filed refunds take an average of 21 days to receive via direct deposit.

Helping families become stable

For more than a decade, we’ve invested in tax preparation services. When families improve their financial situations, they can become stable.

In 2019, between in-person and online services, free tax preparation put $24.1 million back in the pockets of Southeastern Michigan individuals and families.

We have partnered with Accounting Aid Society and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan since 2016 to educate Detroiters about the EITC.

Over the last three years, an average of 85,000 Detroiters collectively claimed nearly $300 million each year in EITC refunds. Additional tax credits such as the child tax credit can boost a family’s refund even more.

Building on success

With financial support from United Way, Accounting Aid Society and Wayne Metro are able to invest in improving tax sites. They’re also able to upgrade technology and provide tax training.

United Way’s 2-1-1 helpline operators also connect more than 1,000 callers with tax preparation services each year.

“When families are able to file taxes for free and keep more of what they earn, it’s beneficial to not only the family’s long-term stability but the stability of the entire community,” said Megan Thibos, director, United Way Economic Mobility initiatives. “We aim to ensure that everyone receives all the tax credits they’re eligible for.”

Find a tax site