United Way Free Tax Help Shifts

United Way California Capital Region is shifting its free tax help program from virtual one-on-one assistance to virtual group assistance and a do-it-yourself option, due to a rise in demand and the new filing deadline of May 17. Eligible households can now visit YourFreeTaxPrep.org to file their taxes online for free by themselves or to sign up for a free April 10 Zoom webinar where United Way’s IRS-certified volunteers will assist the group in filing their taxes online. Space is limited in the Zoom session, so eligible residents should sign up as soon as possible. United Way’s virtual one-on-one appointments are booked through the rest of tax season.

Households throughout the Sacramento region are eligible for free virtual help preparing taxes and claiming credits this year, saving an average of $200 in preparer fees and earning up to $8,000 in credits. More households are eligible to participate in United Way California Capital Region’s Free Tax Prep program this year, including those earning $65,000 or less in 2020. Qualified households can prepare tax returns online for free and claim the maximum tax credits for which they are eligible, including the federal and state Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC and CalEITC).

“After a year where many people lost employment and income, it’s more important than ever for households in our region to take advantage of this program that helps people save money on tax preparation fees and ensures they apply for the maximum refund and credits for which they are eligible,” said Stephanie Bray, president and CEO, United Way California Capital Region. “This program is an important way for our community to jumpstart the local economy in 2021, and it’s a key element of our Square One Project that provides resources for local families so their children can graduate from high school prepared to succeed in college or career.”

This year, more people are eligible to receive the CalEITC and Young Child Tax Credit, including qualifying ITIN holders, after Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1876. Households may be eligible for CalEITC if the taxpayer is at least 18 years old and the household earned less than $30,000 in 2020. Many CalEITC-eligible households are not legally required to file taxes due to low income; however, if they file, they can claim state and federal credits.

Despite the deadline extension, experts recommend everyone files early, noting that many people do not realize that unemployment income may be taxable. Recent legislation exempts $10,200 of unemployment income received in 2020 for individuals with less than $150,000 of income. For those who have already filed, guidance will soon be provided by the IRS. Amended returns should not be filed at this time for these adjustments.

Filers also may qualify for the new Golden State Stimulus if they have filed their 2020 tax return and qualify for CalEITC or hold an ITIN and make less than $75,000. Filers must be California residents when the payment is issued and cannot be claimed as dependants.

United Way’s Free Tax Prep program was shifted online last year when the pandemic and stay-at-home order hit. Even with the pivot to virtual services, United Way’s Free Tax Prep volunteers filed 7,060 returns for the 2019 tax year and put $10.5 million back in the pockets of local families through federal refunds.

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 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, visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org.