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Fight Poverty with United Way. Are You In?

uwkcfreetaxprep

Are you thinking about ways you can make a direct impact in your community, but don’t know where to start? United Way of King County has an amazing volunteering opportunity waiting for you!

United Way is currently seeking for volunteers to join Free Tax Prep campaign. Through our flexible program, volunteers help struggling individuals and families prepare their taxes, give them access to savings opportunities, and connect them to public benefits, including food assistance, health care, and free financial counseling.

Older adults and retirees contribute extensive and valuable work experience and are important to the success of our campaign. By using your skills—financial, customer service, or otherwise—you can empower your fellow community members to make a difference in thousands of lives in King County.

What impact does this make?

To put this campaign into perspective, it is important to note the impact our free tax preparation services make on the people we serve. Washington state’s tax system is the least equitable in the country—lower-income people pay six times more of their income in taxes than the top one percent of our state. On top of that, predatory tax preparers exploit people’s confusion around taxes, charging upwards of $300 for a tax return.

If low-income families and individuals utilize our free financial services, they can keep that money in their pockets. Additionally, the average tax refund from one of our tax prep sites is $1,700. Together, that’s nearly $2,000 back to the people who need it most.

Programs like the Free Tax Prep campaign play an important role in reducing poverty and empowering people in our community. Ours is one of the largest Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) programs in the nation and the largest in Washington state.

We aim to help our community get the most out of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a federal anti-poverty measure that boosts tax refunds for low-income workers. Last tax season, the campaign helped over 21,750 community members file their taxes, bringing $29.1 million back to the community in tax refunds!

Why volunteer?

Hundreds of older adults make up a large portion of our volunteer base and are continually a source of support for this campaign. One long-time supporter, Belinda, is a retiree who has volunteered with us since 2011. This year, she plans to take on four volunteer shifts at the Kent and Rainier Community Center sites. As she says:

“The reason why I keep coming back to volunteer is because it allows me to keep busy. Before I retired, I was so used to spending most of my time working. This campaign makes me feel like I can use my skills to help others even though I may not be working anymore. Not only that, I get to meet so many people and become friends with my fellow volunteers. It’s really a great experience.”

This year, we invite you to join us for a weekly shift starting January 9 and ending April 20. Volunteers can choose between being a tax preparer or an intake and benefits specialist who welcomes clients and connects them to healthcare and other public resources.

While volunteers are needed at all locations throughout King County, the need for help is greatest in Rainer Beach, SeaTac, Tukwila, West Seattle, and White Center. We encourage you to participate, share your experience, and help grow our campaign. Volunteers truly make the difference.

For more information and to sign up to volunteer, visit uwkc.org/taxvolunteer.

Contributor Emily Vyhnanek coordinates financial stability programs at United Way of King County. You can e-mail Free Tax Prep questions to United Way at freetax@uwkc.org.

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