Jackson County United Way, in partnership with the Jackson County Public Library, is pleased to announce the tenth year of the free tax preparation program is open and ready to serve Jackson County
This program provides free income tax preparation services to hundreds of families and individuals in the county with a household income of $66,000 or less. The Free Income Tax Assistance Program, or FITA, has helped 2,863 Jackson County residents reclaim over $2.3 million over the last ten years and has been located at the Jackson County Public Library.
“We’re proud to have worked for a decade with Untied Way to help people across Jackson County benefit from this valuable free service,” said Julia Aker, Jackson County Public Library Director. “For many, filing taxes can be an overwhelming and confusing process. We are grateful to the United Way volunteers who give of their time to help bring joy to many who receive tax filing assistance and may find out they’ll be getting a tax refund.”
Tonja Couch, Executive Director added, “the program has grown over the years, to be more than a free tax preparation service, as volunteers focus on sharing information with residents that will stabilize their financial footing for the new year.”
This year, there are a few changes to the program to increase confidentiality and expand capacity to serve more residents. Long-time volunteers and IRS Certified Preparers, Crystal Jones and Jennifer Harris, joined Couch in early summer to benchmark another community’s Free Tax Prep sites to see what improvements could be made and how to expand the number of people served. Jones was eager to utilize her skillssets in process management and built a plan to increase the number of residents served, as well as provide a new drop-and-go service and increase the financial wellness education residents receive.
Jones is serving as a Volunteer FITA Coordinator for the 2020 filing season. She shared, “Once we took a look at how other programs were running, we knew we had to scale their work but could increase the opportunity to serve more residents. We know this is an important program to our community and to run it successfully, we had to make some changes for the upcoming season.”
One part of the change was to provide a pilot on-site tax preparation program at three local employers. Aisin USA, Excel Mfg, and Home Products had employees that took part in the free service provided by United Way volunteers. Jones shared, “We knew by focusing our efforts early, we could potentially save some employees from using a rapid refund preparer and save nearly $300-400. We are excited with our pilot year; we were able to serve ten taxpayers at these sites.”
Another change to the program this year includes how residents are asked to schedule. Residents can make an appointment online at: www.jacsy.org/free-taxes or by calling 812-522-5450 extension 1. An influx of calls means that residents may have to leave a voicemail; these messages will be returned as soon as possible in the order they are received to help schedule appointments. The program started last Saturday, February 1st and runs until Sunday, April 12th at the Jackson County Public Library in Seymour.
The final change is focused on making the tax preparation process simple, Jones explains, “Once a resident comes into the library, completes the basic paper work, and meets one on one with an IRS certified tax preparer, they can leave their tax documents and pick up the finalized preparation another day, not having to wait around at the library. These drop-and-go services will prove to be a much more efficient way to run the FITA program and keep residents happy.” She also noted that residents can also prepare and file their own taxes online at www.myfreetaxes.com.
In addition to the free tax filing help, tax filers will be offered basic financial wellness education, so the benefits will last long past tax filing season. “Watching taxpayers access their money and make positive changes in their financial health is one of the most rewarding parts of my job as a volunteer,” said Jones.
Required items for tax filing assistance
- Household income of $66,000 or less per year
- Government issued Photo ID
- Both spouses must be present to sign required forms (if filing jointly)
- Social Security Card for each family member
- Birth dates for you, your spouse and dependents on the tax return
- Any W-2, 1099 & 1098 forms and all other income information
- A copy of last year’s tax return
- Deduction and credit information
- Healthcare coverage information (Form 1095-A, 1095-B, 1095-C, as applicable)
- Banking information for direct deposit including bank routing and account numbers