The following is a real-life account from a participant in United Way of Central Alabama (UWCA)’s Free Tax Preparation Program.
Each January, I’m filled with a specific dread. It haunts my dreams, twists my belly into a knot and, on a few occasions, has even been the source of not-so-insignificant hair loss. The source of this terror? The approach of tax season.
Through the years, I’ve done my taxes in many of the traditional ways ranging from utilizing tax software programs to relying on the expertise of an accountant. The software was so time consuming that it felt like it took me the entire three and a half months of tax season to complete the necessary steps. And although the accountant was very friendly, having to depend on someone else was nerve wracking because she got behind schedule and I ended up filing just before the deadline. But the worst part? Both methods came with a hefty price tag – on top of the taxes I owed from my freelance work.
So when I learned that United Way has two FREE options for filing taxes, I was instantly intrigued. It turns out that if you earn less than $54,000 per year, you can schedule an in-person appointment to use the services of an IRS-trained-and-certified tax specialist at United Way of Central Alabama (UWCA) simply by calling 2-1-1, or 1-888-421-1266. Another great option that’s open to people of all incomes is MyFreeTaxes.com, a website from United Way and the tax masters at H&R Block that gives everyone the opportunity to file for free.
Because I fall under the income cutoff for an in-person appointment, I decided I would go that route. I called 2-1-1 and was able to make an appointment for the next week. The operator told me everything I’d need to bring, including:
- my social security card
- driver’s license or ID
- the previous year’s federal and state tax returns
- W-2 form
- 1099s for interest, dividends, retirement, Social Security, unemployment or self-employment
- 1095 for health insurance coverage
- letters or documents from the IRS
- childcare receipts with name, address, tax ID# and amount paid
- tuition expenses (1098T) and student-loan interest (1098E)
- receipts for property tax, vehicle tags, charitable gifts, medical, dental, and prescription-drug expenses
- and a voided check or direct deposit slip.
Whew, that’s quite a list! But hey, it’s better to get it all together at one time than to have to make multiple trips and drag things out.
When I arrived for my appointment, I signed in, expecting to wait for hours. After all, if something’s free, there’s got to be a catch, right? Boy, was I wrong! My name was called within minutes, and I was escorted through an office of smiling faces to a large room, where volunteers helped individuals and families with their taxes. The volunteer I worked with was very friendly, which made it easy to ask questions. I was very glad that was the case since I think I had a question for every single page! After I finished the paperwork, the volunteer made copies of the documents she needed and scheduled my follow-up appointment. In less than an hour, I was in and out!
My next appointment was just as quick. I signed some papers and went over the numbers. Because I freelance, I did still owe taxes to both the state and federal governments, and the volunteer explained that I had the option to make the payments then or wait and mail a check to each office closer to the deadline.
In short, I highly recommend in-person free tax prep at UWCA. In just two quick visits, my taxes were taken care of by an experienced professional, and other than my taxes, it didn’t cost me a dime!
If you’d like to file your taxes for free, depending on your income level, you can make an appointment for in-person assistance by calling 2-1-1 or 1-888-421-1266, or you can head to MyFreeTaxes.com.