Tax season is upon us and the partners of the Lorain County Free Tax Prep Coalition are ready to help thousands in our county with free, high quality tax return preparation and filing services.
The goal of this coalition - which is made up of ten partners including private and public entities as well as financial institutions - is to offer an alternative to paid preparers for low and moderate-income workers. Families and individuals can avoid paying filing fees on returns by using one of the coalition’s four tax preparation sites located throughout Lorain County or by utilizing MyFreeTaxes.com.
At the sites, trained and IRS-certified volunteers prepare and file federal and state income tax returns at no charge with professionalism and confidentiality. The volunteers utilize a system for preparing the returns that was created by the IRS.
“Last year the coalition filed over 1,900 federal returns, bringing back more than 2.3 million dollars to Lorain County, and it is estimated that only 10 percent of those eligible for the services are actually taking advantage,” said United Way of Greater Lorain County community impact director Christine Matusik-Plas. “Imagine the impact it would have on the local economy if everybody was able to take advantage of this free, high quality service.”
The Lorain County Free Tax Prep Coalition specifically helps low and moderate-income families and individuals who, in general, made about $60,000 or less in 2019. Some coalition partners, including AARP, are able to offer services to those who may have a higher income or additional circumstances.
Appointments are available at the following locations: Elyria Public Library West River Branch on Mondays and Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Lorain Public Library on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Ohio Means Jobs Lorain County on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and at United Way of Greater Lorain County on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Individuals can call 2-1-1 or (800) 275-6106 to schedule appointments and obtain information about sites and required documents.
In addition to ongoing appointments throughout the tax season, Super Saturdays will be held Feb. 1 and Feb. 8 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Elyria Public Library West River Branch. These dates are sponsored by PNC Bank and Chemical Bank respectively and will include a larger number of volunteers and additional services. Super Saturdays will be handled on a first come, first served, walk-in basis.
The coalition also works to bring awareness to tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Enacted by Congress in 1975, EITC is a refundable tax credit that increases the income of low and moderate-income working families through the provision of tax reductions and wage supplements.
“We know that the changes in tax laws are causing some confusion,” said Matusik-Plas. “We take pride in spending time with our tax filers to explain things thoroughly and answer any questions they may have, so that when they walk away they can feel good knowing they understand the results of their tax return.”
The coalition is funded through a grant provided by the Internal Revenue Service and is being led by United Way of Greater Lorain County. Other partners include AARP Tax-Aide, Chemical Bank, City of Lorain Income Tax Department, Elyria Public Library System, IRS SPEC, Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, Lorain Public Library System, Ohio Means Jobs and PNC Bank.
More information on the Lorain County Free Tax Prep Coalition and a list of what to bring to your appointment or walk-in can be found at www.loraincountyfreetaxprep.org or by calling 2-1-1 or (800) 275-6106. Those interested in volunteering as a tax preparer can call United Way of Greater Lorain County at 440-277-6530.