Economy
8:17 pm
Mon January 30, 2012

United Way Offering Free Tax Preparation for Low-Income Workers

Those who struggle to make ends meet following tax season might not be taking full advantage of what's offered in tax credits and deductions.

The United Way of Allegheny County is promoting a free tax preparation program to help about a third of eligible workers who don't apply for the Earned Income Tax Credit. Allegheny County has partnered with the UWAC and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said some people are unaware of how much money they can get back.

"Particularly workers who are working three and four jobs, which is often the case for people who are eligible for the earned income tax credit," Fitzgerald said. "What we're saying is, when in doubt, call the United Way helpline."

Fitzgerald said you should use the 2-1-1 line to learn about the program, but it's best to meet with a volunteer in person.

"They have sites all over the county. There is literally one in every community, and it's on weekends, it's in the evenings, there's free parking, so you just call the 2-1-1 line," Fitzgerald said.

The program, which began in 2009, has benefited from more than $300,000 in funding from the United Way, and 242 IRS-certified volunteers have helped to yield $23.7 million in tax refunds and $9.2 million in earned income tax credits for Allegheny County residents alone.

Fitzgerald said it's not a handout, but rather what people have earned for working hard and contributing to society.

"We as a society say, 'We want people to go work, work hard, and play by the rules,' and these are folks that are working hard," Fitzgerald said. "They aren't looking for a handout. These are people that go to work every day. Many work two, three, four jobs to support their families, and this is money that they can have to help pay the bills."

Families with incomes up to $40,000 and individuals who earn no more than $20,000 annually may qualify for the service.

Fitzgerald said he is glad to see money put back into the hands of Allegheny County residents, who can recycle it within the community and cultivate the economy.