Tax-Aide Helped Those in Need Access Tax Refunds
This tax season, the Central Oregon Tax-Aide program returned millions of tax dollars to families in need. More than 3 million dollars in state and federal tax refunds were returned to Central Oregonians on their 2017 taxes. Locally, nearly 3,000 local taxpayers took advantage of Tax-Aide’s free tax preparation services at locations throughout our region, and many were able to access the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit.
Tax-Aide is a free, in-person, IRS-certified tax preparation assistance program available in locations throughout Central Oregon to taxpayers of all ages and backgrounds. It saves preparer fees, helps taxpayers avoid high-interest “fast refund” loans, and offers access to tax credits. The program is offered by United Way of Deschutes County, CASH Oregon, and AARP.
Many of those accessing Tax-Aide are low and moderate income taxpayers and seniors. Many have average incomes of less than $25,000.
New data released by the United Ways of the Pacific Northwest and the United Way ALICE Project shows that in Central Oregon, nearly 35,000 of Central Oregon’s 88,000 households – nearly 40% – earn less than $24,000 for an individual and less than $66,000 for a family of four.
These are ALICE families. “ALICE” stands for “Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.” These families are earning less than the cost of basic needs (housing, food, child care, health care, transportation, and a cell phone.) and are living just one unexpected expense away from financial crisis. These are people who are financially on the edge even though they are working, sometimes more than one job. Families living below the federal poverty level combined with ALICE households make up 49% of Jefferson County, 46% of Crook County, and 37% of Deschutes County’s households.
Free tax preparation services can be invaluable to ALICE families, and accessing tax credits can help to prevent financial crisis for many. The number of taxpayers accessing Tax-Aide has increased in Central Oregon – more than 18% over last tax season. Last year, for the 2016 tax season, 2,200 returns were prepared for free through Tax-Aide, resulting in 2.1 million dollars in refunds.
The Tax-Aide program depends entirely on volunteers to provide free tax assistance for members of our community. Tax-Aide is currently seeking volunteers to assist taxpayers with tax preparation for the 2018 tax season from February through April 2019, and offers training. Volunteers do not need any prior experience; CASH Oregon and AARP have developed a robust program to give volunteers the tools they need to provide volunteer tax assistance for our community.
For 65 years, United Way of Deschutes County has worked to improve lives and foster a healthier Central Oregon. The local 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in our community. United Way is focused on addressing the root causes of some of the biggest issues affecting our region and creating systemic and lasting change. To view the ALICE Report for Oregon and Central Oregon counties, visit https://www.unitedwayalice.org/oregon. To learn more about becoming at Tax-Aide volunteer, visit: https://www.deschutesunitedway.org/become-volunteer-tax-preparer or call United Way at 541.389.6507.