January 15, 2019

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

financial coaching

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

The start of a new year is a great time to prepare, prioritize and organize for the year ahead. It’s also tax time. As a result, it’s a perfect opportunity for individuals and families to check in on their finances and set goals.

United Way supports convenient, free tax services offered through neighborhood-based partner organizations like Matrix Human Services. Financial coaching and other resources are also available to families.

“A tax refund offers many families an infusion of cash that can make a huge difference long term,” said Gregory McPherson, Matrix Human Services director of adult and senior programs. “We can help create a plan to catch up on bills, pay down debt and improve credit scores. This can dramatically improve things like interest rates on major purchases.” 

For more than a decade, we’ve invested in tax preparation services to help people keep more of what they earn as part of our Economic Prosperity work.

In addition to in-person tax prep, we also work to connect Metro Detroiters with convenient online tax programs like United Way’s MyFreeTaxes.

In 2018, more than 22,000 individuals and families in the Metro Detroit region took advantage of free in-person tax prep. Many more were able to do the same using free online services. These services put thousands of dollars back in families’ pockets by ensuring they receive all credits they’re eligible for.

We have also partnered with Accounting Aid Society and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan since 2017 to educate Detroiters about the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). In 2018, this collaborative effort helped nearly 85,000 Detroiters claim the tax credit. As a result, they recouped nearly $300 million in federal and state EITC tax refunds that had historically gone unclaimed. That’s an average of $3,500 per family — just in EITC refunds.  Additional tax credits such as the child tax credit can boost a family’s refund even more. 

Easy to find, easy to use

There are more than 50 locations across Metro Detroit where individuals can get their taxes done for free.  Sites are operated by our nonprofit tax-prep partners Accounting Aid Society and Wayne Metro in partnership with community partners such as Matrix. IRS-certified volunteer tax preparers process each family’s tax return.

“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.

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 returning later.  Once accepted by the IRS, e-filed refunds take an average of 21 days to receive via direct deposit.

Building on success

With financial support from United Way, Accounting Aid Society and Wayne Metro are able to make continued investments in tax sites, technology and 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