United Way offers free tax help

United Way is helping fight poverty by helping people do their taxes for free but this year, the group needs help spreading the word. Michelle Li reports.

SEATTLE - The United Way of King County is offering free tax help, but so far participation has been slow.

The free tax service is the 15th year for the program and is considered one of the best ways to fight poverty. Instead of people paying hundreds of dollars to get their taxes done, they can get them prepared for free. Plus, the United Way can help people find tax credits from education or childcare costs.

This year the United Way has more sites open and has expanded hours across the county. Nearly a thousand volunteers have tax preparation training, and many speak languages other than English.

"I think what makes a program really unique is that our volunteers come to us with very diverse languages and set of skills," says Jenny Walden of United Way. "Across our program, around 50 languages are spoken by our volunteer base alone, which is huge."

People who are eligible for the service must have a household income less than $64,000.

What to bring to a United Way tax site

There have been other challenges this year. Early filers saw delays if they claimed an Earned Income Tax Credit because the IRS withheld refunds to help protect against identity theft and fraud.

Also, Walden says some people have expressed concerned about filing under a new White House administration. 

"Unfortunately, we have encountered some new sort of sentiment at the tax sites," says Walden. "I think that the tax system can be scary to anyone. And I think this year we're hearing a lot more questions like, 'Is it safe to file my taxes?' and you know, we are able to provide them with information on that and make sure they are filing their taxes. We really pride ourselves on security at the site and protecting information."

New tax site locations this year include one in Renton and one at the University of Washington campus. The 27 sites across King County will remain open until April 20, beyond the filing deadline of April 18.

Copyright 2017 KING


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