Logo courtesy of Orange County United Way

Orange County United Way offers free tax prep and filing to low-income families throughout Orange County

As part of its United for Financial Security℠ Initiative, Orange County United Way is offering free tax preparation and electronic filing to low- and moderate-income individuals and families through its popular OC Free Tax Prep program.

“Each year through our OC Free Tax Prep program, our goal is to help hardworking people in Orange County keep more of their earnings and increase the number of financially stable and self-sufficient families in our community,” said Susan B. Parks, president and CEO, Orange County United Way. “Often times, our low-income residents miss out on millions of dollars in federal and state refunds and tax credits, which can make all the difference in helping a person or family go from surviving to thriving.”

OC Free Tax Prep was established in 2005 to help qualifying individuals keep more of their hard-earned money and increase the number of financially stable households in Orange County to break the cycle of poverty. To date, program volunteers have contributed more than 85,000 hours to complete 121,219 tax returns, which amounts to more than $23 million saved in tax preparation fees.

The program offers three ways of filing – drop-off with an appointment where an IRS-certified Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) preparer files for you, virtually by uploading your tax documents to a secure online portal with your mobile device or do it yourself online at MyFreeTaxes.com. There are over 20 VITA sites in Orange County, with locations at community resource centers, churches, and schools. Multilingual preparers are available in most locations.

“I get a great feeling from volunteering for VITA. I would tell someone who is interested in being a VITA volunteer that it is a terrific program that helps many people in our community. It is well run and a rewarding volunteer opportunity,” said Linda, a VITA volunteer.

For households earning less than $30,000 in 2021, the expanded California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC) may qualify them for hundreds or even thousands of extra dollars in cash back credits. In addition to CalEITC, they may also be eligible for the Federal EITC if they earn less than $58,000, increasing their refund even more.

Each year, millions of low-income Californians miss out on cash back in their pockets because they don’t know they qualify for EITC and don’t claim the credit.

The CalEITC has also been expanded to tax filers who use an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. If anyone who qualifies for CalEITC has children younger than 6 years of age they may also be eligible for the Young Child Tax Credit. Orange County United Way is working with First 5 Orange County to reach these young families and help put money back into their pockets.

Households that earned less than $60,000 in 2021, but don’t qualify for EITC, may still be eligible for free tax filing services.

In 2021, Orange County United Way and its coalition partners filed almost 12,000 tax returns, securing $14.6 million in federal and state refunds for individuals and families. Over $2.1 million returned was through the federal EITC, with $2.4 million saved on tax preparation fees through OC Free Tax Prep – amounting to an estimated $17 million impact in Orange County.

In partnership with the City of Irvine and the County of Orange, free tax prep will also be available in the parking lot of Cypress Community Park through a mobile E-bus complete with Wi-Fi and computer stations. Tax prep takes place every Wednesday through April 6. To make an appointment for the E-bus (required), call: (888) 434-8248.

A full list of VITA locations can be found at https://ocfreetaxprep.com/locations/. Masks are required for all drop-off locations.

For more information about OC Free Tax Prep, visit https://ocfreetaxprep.com/.

The deadline to file is April 18, 2022.

This article was released by Orange County United Way.