Guest post by Sharon Baldwin
It’s that time of year when W-2s start hitting mailboxes and many of us make plans for a much-anticipated refund (or worrying about what kind of money we might owe). For those of us living on AmeriCorps stipends, and for folks with low incomes in general, a tax refund might mean we can splurge, visit families who are far away, or set some money aside in an emergency fund. Last year, I paid $80 to get my taxes done and thought I got a deal. This year, because of my work as the Volunteer Maryland Coordinator at the nonprofit Baltimore CASH–Creating Assets, Savings, and Hope–Campaign, I know I have other, better options for keeping money in my pocket at tax time.
The Baltimore CASH Campaign’s mission is to promote and provide products and services that increase opportunities to build financial stability for low income families in and around Baltimore. One of these valuable services is free, high quality tax preparation for low and moderate income folks through the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. Baltimore CASH and its partners offer no-cost tax preparation at 15 tax sites in and around Baltimore. Individuals earning less than $25,000/year and families earning less than $50,000/year are eligible for free tax preparation and opportunities to connect to savings opportunities. (Not near Baltimore? Find a VITA tax site near you on this list maintained by our partner and sister program The Maryland CASH Campaign.)
My time so far has been a crash course in volunteer management, behavioral economics, and taxes. I now understand the difference between standardized and itemized deductions; refundable and nonrefundable credits; and, just how many different definitions of dependents exist in the U.S. tax code. Our well-trained, IRS certified Tax Volunteers donate their valuable time and skills to learn all of this and more to prepare accurate returns and save you money at tax time.
Paid tax preparers are expensive–Baltimore CASH estimates that the average family saves $250 by using one of our tax sites for their taxes, that’s a quarter of the AmeriCorps monthly stipend! To make an appointment, call 410-234-8008, or, make one online.
Inspired by what we do and want to get involved? Visit our website, register to volunteer, find us on Facebook, or contact Sharon Baldwin, Volunteer Maryland Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-234-2804