The deadline to file taxes is a month away, but some will decide not to pay. Tax preparers say tax hiding is becoming more common because people know they owe.

The United Way of Snohomish County, which puts on free income tax clinics, sees the problem frequently.

As stressed out as people are when they come to us, a lot of times they leave with a big smile on their face, said Ian Nelson, Financial Stability Manager.

According to the organization, United Way volunteers have prepared more than 12,000 tax returns worth more than $20 million in refunds for Snohomish County families.

I had quite a hole to come out of, said Russ Lewis, a client.

Lewis had put off filing taxes the last five years because he thought he owed more than $12,000.

You find out you re not getting money back and you re going to owe, you re going to owe even more if you have somebody does your taxes for you, said Lewis.

Lewis, 51, came to the free clinic where volunteers helped Lewis learn about tax credits he never knew about. Among them, the Earned Income Tax Credit and another for having two kids.

It adds up big, said Nelson.

Not only was Lewis refund big enough to cover all the back taxes he owed, the single father even got a $7,200 refund.

I can t explain the weight off my shoulders, said Lewis.

After treating his kids to a water park trip, Lewis plans to put away the rest of the money towards a down payment on a house.

They come in with all this fear and then they leave with something they didn t expect, said Nelson.

So far, the United Way of Snohomish County has helped more than 3,000 people prepare their taxes. For information on free tax preparations near you, dial 211.


Tax preparation site locations

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