Fitzgerald, United Way Remind Residents about Free Tax Preparation

PITTSBURGH – Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and United Way of Allegheny County remind residents to take advantage of the Money in Your Pocket (MIYP) Coalition Free Tax Preparation Campaign, which helps financially struggling individuals and families file their 2013 federal, state and local tax returns. There are 11 locations staffed with IRS-trained tax preparers throughout Allegheny County.

Now in its fifth year, the free tax preparation campaign helps low and middle-income workers maximize their tax refunds by claiming valuable state and federal tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC). Services are provided free of charge, offering clients a cost-saving alternative to expensive commercial tax preparation fees.

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)is a federal tax credit for people who work but do not earn high incomes. Taxpayers who quality for and claim the credit pay less federal tax, pay no tax at all, or even get a tax refund. Qualified residents could be eligible for a refund between $475 and $5,891.

“The Earned Income Tax Credit was created to assist hard working people struggling to make ends meet, but it is estimated that only 75 percent of those eligible actually apply,” said Fitzgerald. “The Money in Your Pocket Coalition Free Tax Preparation Campaign strives to educate residents about their taxes, and assist them with filing, so that tax refunds are not left unclaimed. We want every Allegheny County citizen in need to be aware of the campaign. Tax refunds and tax credits, like EITC, can put thousands of dollars into their pockets. That’s money that can be used for basic needs, like putting food on the table, paying monthly utility bills, purchasing gasoline or bus passes, making rent payments, or eliminating personal debt.”

IRS-trained tax preparers help residents get the refund they deserve without expensive service fees and without predatory “payday” loans. In today’s economy, more workers may qualify due to reduced incomes. EITC can make their lives a little easier. The credit can increase their federal income tax refunds by up to $5,981, depending on their individual circumstances. But to get their EITC, they must know about the credit, then file and specifically claim it.

The Money in Your Pocket Coalition wants to reach every working individual who may qualify for EITC, including:

  • Newly eligible taxpayers, due to changes in their income, marital or parental status during 2012;
  • Self-employed individuals;
  • Workers with disabilities;
  • Workers in non-traditional situations, such as grandparents raising grandchildren;
  • Childless workers, especially those whose earnings may be too low to require filing; and
  • Workers with limited English proficiency.

Angela Reynolds, Director of Programs for Financially Struggling Adults and Families with United Way of Allegheny County said, “To get things started, individuals may call 2-1-1, the free hotline providing easy access to health, housing and human services information. This year, PA 2-1-1 Southwest is taking MIYP tax calls and scheduling appointments. In addition, PA 2-1-1 staff are making referrals to MyFreeTaxes.com, a resource for those residents with incomes higher than the MIYP limits, but not exceeding $57,000. Call specialists can also talk with residents about other resources available to help them in times of need.”

Through April 15, 2013, volunteers will help Allegheny County residents whose annual incomes do not exceed $20,000 for an individual or $40,000 for a household that can claim at least one dependent. Residents can receive their refund in as little as 9 days.

The coalition wouldn’t be possible without the team of 150+ students, retirees and professionals who have committed to volunteering at least three hours per week at one of tax sites. Volunteers have trained and been certified in the basics of IRS tax preparation.

“During the 2012 tax season, the Money In Your Pocket Coalition prepared more than 6,000 tax returns and delivered $10.6 million in tax refunds to Allegheny County residents, including $4.4 million in Earned Income Tax Credits,” said Reynolds. “This money makes a positive financial difference in the lives of thousands of hard-working people and their families.”

For more information about the Free Tax Preparation Campaign, visit the Money In Your Pocket Coalition website at     www.pghfreetaxes.org or dial 2-1-1.

Find out more about the impact MIYP makes in our community by watching this one-minute video to learn how “Every Dollar Matters“.

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United Way of Allegheny County is a change agent and efficient community fundraiser that improves lives by addressing critical community needs. By convening diverse partners and investing in programs and people to advance solutions, United Way creates long-lasting change and helps children and youth succeed, strengthens and supports families by promoting financial stability, ensures the safety and well-being of vulnerable seniors, and provides county-wide access to information and referral sources meeting basic needs. Visit United Way of Allegheny County online at www.UnitedWayPittsburgh.org, www.facebook.com/UnitedWayPittsburgh, and www.twitter.com/UnitedWayPgh 

The Money in Your Pocket Coalition is an alliance of non-profit agencies committed to helping low-income workers and their families access the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit.  Members of the Coalition include: Allegheny County Department of Human Services; Allegheny Valley Association of Churches; Capacity Consulting; IRS SPEC; Just Harvest; PA 2-1-1 Southwest; Robert Morris University; United Way of Allegheny County; YMCA-Hazelwood; YMCA-Homewood; and YWCA Greater Pittsburgh.

For more information, visit www.PghFreeTaxes.org

PA 2-1-1 Southwest is a nationally recognized, easy to remember phone number that quickly and effectively connects people in need with human services and community resources tailored to meet caller’s needs. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission granted the 2-1-1 dialing code to the United Way of Pennsylvania.  Since that time, designated regional leaders across the Commonwealth have begun to define and roll out the service, including United Way of Allegheny County as the designated leader for managing delivery of services in Southwestern PA.  PA 2-1-1 Southwest currently serves Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Lawrence, Mercer, Washington and Westmoreland Counties. Visit PA 2-1-1 Southwest online at www.pa211sw.org, www.facebook.com/PA211Southwest and www.twitter.com/pa211southwest.