United Way Kicks Off Free Tax Help at Community Event This Saturday

Households throughout the Sacramento region are eligible for free help preparing their taxes and claiming credits this year, saving an average of $200 in preparer fees and often earning thousands of dollars in credits. United Way California Capital Region’s Free Tax Prep program, supported by Citi Community Development, kicks off at a community event on Feb. 2 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at Grant Union High School in Sacramento. At the event, IRS-certified volunteers will provide free basic tax return preparation with electronic filing and help guests claim the maximum tax credits for which they are eligible. To receive help, households must have earned $60,000 or less in 2018. Services are available in English and Spanish, and in several other languages throughout tax filing season. For more information: YourFreeTaxPrep.org. 

“This is an important time of year for families in our community. They could be eligible to receive hundreds, even thousands, of dollars in refunds to help them become financially stable,” said Stephanie Bray, president and CEO, United Way California Capital Region. “We encourage every eligible household to come out to Grant Union High School on Feb. 2 and see how much money you are eligible for through the many tax credits available. If you can’t make it to Grant, then make sure to check out the many places offering help throughout tax season.”  

Free Tax Prep community events will occur throughout the region during tax season, and help also will be available at dozens of sites during the week throughout Amador, Placer, Sacramento and Yolo counties. For a list of locations and events, visit YourFreeTaxPrep.org. To make an appointment, call 2-1-1 or call toll-free (800) 500-4931. Most locations require advance appointments.

Households that earned $66,000 or less in 2018 are eligible to file their taxes for free online at MyFreeTaxes.org through a partnership with United Ways of California. The site provides households with free tax help they can trust and guides users through federal and state filing, including tax credits, with software powered by H&R Block. Users need a valid email address, income forms and Adjusted Gross Income from 2018.

This year, more households are eligible to claim federal and state Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC and Cal EITC), Child Tax Credit, and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled. Age qualification for Cal EITC has been expanded to include ages 18-24 and working adults ages 65 and up, giving more taxpayers the opportunity to earn up to $6,500 in credits, including those who are self-employed. Many Cal EITC-eligible households are not legally required to file taxes due to very low incomes; however if they do file, they can claim the state and federal credits for which they are eligible. Due to federal law, those who file for EITC, Cal EITC or Child Tax Credit should plan for their refund to be delayed until end of February, no matter who prepares their taxes. For more information about available tax credits, visit YourFreeTaxPrep.org. 

Nearly 8,500 households in the Sacramento area took advantage of United Way’s Free Tax Prep services for the 2017 tax year, resulting in more than $10 million in money claimed through credits and refunds. With support from Citi Community Development, free tax help was significantly expanded across the region last year in Amador, Placer, Sacramento and Yolo counties, increasing the number of households helped by more than 2,500 and resulting in more than a $3 million increase in refunds for the region compared to last year.

“The Earned Income Tax Credit is a vital tool that provides families with a much-needed cash infusion, one that can help them pay down debts, cover expenses, and even get on the road to saving and planning for the future, ” said Mary Hogarty, vice president, Citi Community Development. “Through our support for United Way California Capital Region, we aim to expand access to tax credits like the EITC and free tax preparation for eligible people that help enable more working families to build resilient financial futures.”

Other sponsors of United Way’s 2019 Free Tax Prep program include the IRS, the State of California Department of Community Services and Development, and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District. 

For nearly 100 years, United Way California Capital Region has brought local people together to make community change happen. Today, the nonprofit is bringing people together across Amador, El Dorado, Sacramento, Placer and Yolo counties for its Square One Project, a 20-year promise to significantly increase the number of students in our region who graduate from high school ready for success in college and beyond. United Way believes ending generational poverty starts in school and is working to ensure kids meet important milestones and their families receive support and resources. To learn more and make a donation: YourLocalUnitedWay.org. 

Free Tax Help Across Sacramento Region Through United Way

VITA volunteer helps a local resident file her taxes through United Way-led programs

Local households throughout the Sacramento region that earned $54,000 or less in 2017 can receive free tax help in person through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) effort led by United Way California Capital Region with support from Citi Community Development. The program will kick off at the first Super Saturday event on Jan. 27 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at Grant Union High School in Sacramento, where IRS-certified volunteers will provide free basic tax return preparation with electronic filing. For more Super Saturday events and weekday sites available during tax season, call (916) 498-1000 or visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org/FreeTaxPrep. Sacramento residents can call 2-1-1.

“We want to make sure more Sacramento-area households are financially healthy, and that starts with not spending unnecessary money on tax preparation and making sure they receive all of the refunds to which they are entitled,” said Stephanie Bray, United Way California Capital Region president and CEO.

Through VITA, the national IRS program that offers free help to people who make a limited income and need help preparing their tax returns, local IRS-certified volunteers will help Sacramento-region households claim tax credits, including federal and state Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC and Cal EITC), Child Tax Credit, and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled. This year, more households are eligible to earn up to $6,500 in federal and state Earned Income Tax Credits, including those who are self-employed. Many Cal EITC-eligible households are not legally required to file taxes due to low income, however if they do file, they can claim the state and federal credits for which they are eligible. Those who file for EITC, Cal EITC or Child Tax Credit should plan for their refund to be delayed until Feb. 27.

“We want to encourage people to plan ahead for this delay instead of using refund advance products that can end up being very costly in the long run,” Bray said. “And don’t pay a preparer if you qualify for free VITA services. You won’t receive your refund sooner.”

Local households that made $66,000 or less in 2017 can file state and federal taxes online for free at MyFreeTaxes.com, sponsored by United Way Worldwide. The site provides households with free tax help they can trust so they can maximize refunds and credits. As with VITA, the site helps people save an average of $200 in preparer fees, guiding users through federal and state filing with software powered by H&R Block. Users need a valid email address, income forms and Adjusted Gross Income from 2017.

Funding support from Citi Community Development will enable United Way California Capital Region to increase capacity and reach of the local VITA program to meet additional need and demand over the next two years. The funding will help expand the number of sites offering free tax preparation and increase the number of volunteer tax preparers.

“Nearly 20 percent of households in the Sacramento region are living on low incomes, and nearly half lack the savings to sustain an unexpected shock to income,” said Vicki Joseph, Northern California market manager for Citi Community Development. “By expanding access to free tax preparation services, United Way is enabling more families in need to benefit from this vital tax credit and help build their financial resiliency.”

Other sponsors of United Way’s 2018 free tax preparation programs include U.S. Internal Revenue Service, SAFE Credit Union and SMUD. For a list of collaborating partners, visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org/VITA.

United Way California Capital Region is leading these free tax preparation programs as part of its Square One Project, a 20-year promise to significantly increase the number of local students who graduate from high school ready for success in college and beyond. Household financial well-being is a key factor in student success. Through nine decades of work and research across Amador, El Dorado, Sacramento, Placer and Yolo counties, the local United Way believes ending poverty starts in school and is working to ensure kids meet important milestones for success in college or career. To donate or volunteer, visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org.

Citi Community Development leads Citi’s commitment to financial inclusion and economic empowerment for underserved individuals, families and communities across the U.S. Through innovative collaborations with municipalities, community groups and leading nonprofit organizations, the group harnesses Citi’s expertise, products and services to help expand opportunity for all. For more information: CitiCommunityDevelopment.com, @Citi on Twitter, YouTube.com/Citi, http://Blog.Citi.com, Facebook.com/Citi and LinkedIn.com/company/citi.