Options for tax preparation
United Way of Central Alabama is providing tax services again this year. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, we have established new processes to assist you with your taxes in a safe and secure manner.
Preparing Your Own Return
If you are interested in preparing your own return, MyFreeTaxes.com now offers FREE online software for your state and federal returns. There are no income limits for this service. Telephone support is available for prompt answers to any questions you may have.
Tax Preparation by United Way Volunteers
United Way of Central Alabama offers free volunteer tax preparation for households with annual income of $54,000 or less.
In order to safely serve you, United Way is offering a contact-free, online intake for volunteer tax preparation this year. For an appointment, or to request accommodations, please call 2-1-1 or 1-888-421-1266.
Who Qualifies for Free Tax Preparation?
- If you earn $54,000 or less per year, you qualify for free tax assistance provided by United Way. Call 2-1-1 or 1-888-421-1266 for appointment information.
- If you are interested in preparing your own returns, you can file online for free. There is NO income limit to file state and federal taxes at MyFreeTaxes.com.
You may also be eligible for earned-income tax credits up to $6,824. You can avoid high fees by having your taxes prepared by IRS-certified volunteers at United Way and get your refund in 10 to 14 days. Unsure about eligibility? Call us at 2-1-1.
What Information Do Tax Filers Need to Gather to be Ready for Tax Preparation?
United Way’s Free Tax Preparation program advises tax filers to bring (or submit online) the following documents for their tax preparation appointment:
- Social Security cards for all family members
- Driver license or non-drivers ID (spouses filing jointly must both be present)
- Last year’s federal and state tax returns
- W-2 forms
- 1099s for interest, dividends, retirement, Social Security, unemployment or self-employment
- 1095 for health insurance coverage
- Letters or documents from the IRS
- Childcare receipts – name, address, tax ID# and amount paid
- Tuition expenses and book receipts (1098T) and student-loan interest (1098E)
- Receipts for property tax, vehicle tags, charitable gifts and medical, dental and prescription-drug expenses
- Voided check or direct deposit
How Do I Contact United Way for Free Tax Assistance?
We prepare taxes year-round.
Complete our tax-preparation training classes (approximately 8 hours) to become an IRS-certified tax preparer. Once certified, you can volunteer to complete tax returns for members of our community.
Complete an open-book test (less than 1 hour) to become an IRS-certified volunteer. You’ll welcome clients, explain how the Free Tax Preparation program works and ensure that they have all the necessary documents to get their taxes prepared.
Strengthen your resume and demonstrate to employers your skills at applying tax law, using tax software and working with customers to complete accurate tax returns.
Watch Judy Allen, Director of the United Way of Central Alabama Tax Assistance Program (VITA), discuss volunteer opportunities on “Talk of Alabama” or click here to watch a report from FOX 6 News.
FAQ for Tax Prep Volunteers
Taxpayers who use our program save an estimated $200 in preparation fees per return. This is money that they can use for a car repair, to catch up an unexpected bill, or to stock their pantry with groceries. Thousands of individuals and families turn to United Way of Central Alabama each year seeking help filing their taxes.
What COVID-19 precautions are in place?
United Way prioritizes safety of both volunteers and clients. Masks are required for anyone in shared spaces of the building, whether customer or client. Tax Volunteers will be working in separated workspaces, and may remove their mask when seated at their desk.
Volunteers may opt to assist clients in person or serve behind the scenes. If serving clients in person, they will be separated by a plexi-glass shield and other dividers to allow conversation and sharing of documents while maintaining a safe distance. Many clients are submitting their tax information through an on-line system, so that they do not even need to come into the building.
How Do I Register for Tax Prep Volunteer Training?
Follow this link: https://givepul.se/vz2e0u to express interest in volunteering. Volunteers will receive email links to the training registration or may return to this site to register as class dates are posted. Training will be offered in November and December virtually, and there will also be options to train in person, COVID conditions permitting.
What is Covered in the Training?
Volunteers will receive reference material and learn to apply frequently used tax law, as well as learn to prepare returns using tax software. They will set up a password to training software that they can access after class for further practice if desired. In addition, they will have access to videos to watch for further review, and reference materials to keep and review.
Do I have to Complete a Certification to Volunteer?
Volunteers need to complete an open-book IRS certification before volunteering. The training classes offered cover all material needed for the certification; at the end of class, volunteers will be ready to complete their tests. Additional one-on-one help is available for remaining questions about the certification process, if needed.
What if I Do Not Pass My Certification Test?
The passing score for each Certification is 80 or higher. Volunteers who did not pass on the first try may take a retake test, but only once. Contact United Way before beginning the retake to make sure that you understand the correct answers to the questions you missed.
Where Do I Volunteer?
Tax volunteers will work onsite at United Way of Central Alabama, in the Alice Williams Building, the new glass and stone building next to United Way’s original brick building..
Where is United Way of Central Alabama?
3600 8th Avenue South in the Avondale/Forest Park neighborhood. (If using GPS. Enter 3620 8th Avenue South to come to the specific building when tax volunteers are working.)
From St. Vincent’s Hospital, follow University Boulevard east about eight blocks. The street name will change to Clairmont Avenue. Watch for the Piggly Wiggly on the left at 34th Street South. After the Piggly Wiggly, go one more block past Park 35 Apartments, and turn left at 36th Street South. UWCA is one block ahead at the top of the hill. Turn right and then turn left into the parking lot. Continue past the red brick building and enter the front entrance of the stone and glass Alice Williams Building. Check in with the receptionist to sign in and get your volunteer badge and name tag.
What Do I Do as a Volunteer?
Most appointments for clients allow them to complete a drop-off interview one week, then return the next week to sign and pick up the completed return. Volunteers can help with the drop-off and pick-up meetings.
Volunteers also have the option to prepare returns that have already been dropped off, or that were received online. Many new volunteers like to do this as a way to get familiar with the process before assisting clients in person.
What if I have Questions While Volunteering?
United Way Site Coordinators are always on hand to respond to your questions. In addition, tabbed reference guides are available at each workstation to assist you with your questions.
What if I Make a Mistake?
In training, we teach that every return must go through a second check, called a Quality Review, before it is signed by the client. Ask questions as you have them, and if there are any issues that you think need close attention, attach a note to the return for the reviewer. This process allows an opportunity for mistakes to be identified and corrected prior to meeting with the client.
What is My Liability as a Volunteer?
The Volunteer Protection Act generally protects unpaid volunteers from liability for acts or omissions that occur while acting within the scope of their responsibilities at the time of the act or omission. It provides no protection for harm caused by willful or criminal misconduct, gross negligence, reckless misconduct, or conscious, flagrant indifference to the rights or safety of the individual harmed by the volunteer.
What’s the Schedule?
Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Tax Prep Volunteers Make a Difference
Judy Allen, Director of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), and Doug Horst, Director of Financial Stability Services, discuss why helping people with their taxes matters and how Central Alabama residents can make a difference by becoming Tax Prep volunteers.Read Their Story