Take Charge Thursday: Free Tax Help

Last year four million dollars was returned in tax refunds, all thanks to the United Way tax assistance program.

This year it continues and will help anyone that makes 52 thousand dollars a year or less.

This is the eighth year for the program. It's not just in St. Joseph County but five counties in Michiana. Last year volunteers filed 26-hundred returns electronically.

People are encouraged to make an appointment by calling 211.

Dawn Chapla from United Way of St. Joseph County says, “We figured we saved over a million dollars in prep fees and loan fees and those loans are one of our big targets. We don't want you to borrow your own money just to get it back sooner than a few days. We can usually get your return back from the federal government in 7 to 11 days. Why pay 400 dollars of your own money to get your taxes when you can keep it all and have it work for your own family?”
Keep in mind United Way doesn't handle businesses.

However this year there is a free service on-line so people can file their own taxes just by going to their website.
Also students from Saint Mary's and Notre Dame volunteer their time to do taxes for free. It helps them get some real life experience and helps out the community. The program is known as "TAP" which stands for the "tax assistance program."

It was started in the early 70's, about the same time earned tax income credit was developed. Anyone that makes 40 thousand dollars can show up for help.

Students file paper forms, not electronic ones, so they can practice what they've learned in the classroom.

TAP program manager and Saint Mary’s accounting professor John Cerjnul says, “The calculation and determining the eligibility and the amount of income is very complicated, very complicated. So students are determining if they are eligible and B, how much they will get. This is money the federal government says they are entitled to.”

Students and CPAs typically volunteer at various libraries in St. Joseph County. They helped five thousand people last year.

Unlike United Way, since there are experienced CPAs on hand that are trained on how to properly handle complicated tax problems.

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