For 11 years, the United Way of Muskingum, Perry and Morgan counties has offered free tax filing to help families get every penny they can, but the program is still looking for about 15 volunteers.
The first year of the program, volunteers filed about 35 tax returns. In more recent years, there have been up to 1,500 returns filed per year, Community Impact Director Becky Clawson said.
“United Way here in Perry, Muskingum, Morgan counties feels that this is a really good way to make a difference in area households,” Clawson said. “So, this program started because we know that this is the biggest check that most of these households are going to see all year.”
Currently, the program has 28 committed volunteers for the tax season and is looking for 15 more people in order to help as many community members as possible. Volunteers don’t need any specific background other than the ability to use a computer and time to give.
The commitment is about three to four hours once per week. Clawson said it’s preferred to have volunteers who can work the same time and day each week.
Additionally, training is provided and blame for any errors does not fall on volunteers.
“If there is an error, which is very rare, the volunteer is not responsible for that, but in most cases we’re able to fix that, amend it or recommend someone who can,” Clawson said. “So, we certainly try to help as much as we can in those cases but, like I said, that’s very rare.”
For anyone looking to file their taxes through the United Way, there are a few minor requirements.
If filing as a single person, the adjusted gross income for that person has to be $65,000 or less. If filing jointly, the adjusted gross income for that couple has to be $95,000 or less.
“Last year’s average adjusted gross income for clients was less than $19,000. If you spread that over more than 1,300 people, that’s staggering,” Clawson said. “We really are seeing that these families that are being served are living paycheck to paycheck, and we want to make sure that we can help them as much as possible.”
The United Way cannot file taxes for farm owners, rental property owners, those with capital gains or members of the clergy.
People looking to schedule an appointment to file their taxes can call 2-1-1, as of Dec. 1 to allow enough time to collect all tax information before tax season arrives. While scheduling an appointment, instructions will be provided on what materials to bring for the filing.
There is also an option to self-file taxes for free through United Way by using the Ohio Benefit Bank Software. People must have access to a computer to use the self-serve program. Throughout tax season there will be self-serve booths set up at the clinic locations for anyone who may not have access to a computer.
All of the above qualifications for free tax filing also applies to the free self-serve.
Those looking to file their taxes for free with assistance must make an appointment as walk-ins are not accepted at the clinic locations.
Locations include the library in Muskingum County, library locations in Perry County, as well as the Zanesville Metropolitan Housing Authority.
Aspiring volunteers should contact Becky Clawson at 740.454.6872 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.