When Louisa and Steve walked through the doors of United Way of Greater Mercer County (UWGMC) last March, they thought they owed the Internal Revenue Service $300. They never imagined they would walk out of that office with a refund. The couple was interviewed by Gary, one of UWGMC’s long-time volunteer tax preparers. Once Gary recognized them as being self-employed he asked key questions and realized they may have accrued some expenses throughout the year. Those expenses added up and the couple soon learned they were entitled to a $400 refund.
Gary, a volunteer in the United Way’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program since 1997, is very proud of the work he does to help people like Steve and Louisa. “We have an exemplary interview process that allows us to get to know the taxpayer while gaining their trust and eliminating the fear that comes with getting your taxes prepared … and then help them get the greatest benefits on their returns. It’s fun to meet so many great people and help them at the same time!”
A permanent fixture in the UWGMC offices, Gary and others offer free tax preparation from February to October each year. There are 70 IRS-certified volunteers who follow strict standards and who clocked almost 3,000 hours preparing returns last tax season. When asked what he is most excited about this new tax season, Gary pointed to a New Jersey state tax credit for veterans with its goal to provide additional benefits for those who have served in the military.
United Way recognizes that in order for families and individuals to be self-sufficient they have to be financially stable. In 2017 the United Way of Greater Mercer County prepared 2,610 free tax returns with refunds last year totaling more than $2.6 million, which is a direct benefit to the community since much of that money is spent at nearby businesses, paying bills, or put into savings accounts at local banks.
UWGMC’s work is made possible by the countless hours volunteers and corporate partners provide to the organization. Corporate partners often contact United Way to fulfill their corporate citizenship goals so they too can make an impact in the community. Whether it is volunteering for tax prep, creating education kits, painting a school classroom, reading to students, or organizing food or book drives, the commitment of our volunteers has been irreplaceable.
UWGMC partners with several nonprofits to provide free tax preparation for households who earn less than $65,000 annually. Not only can taxpayers get their taxes done for free, but they have access to credit and debt counseling sessions, which can improve their overall financial health.
For 82 years United Way of Greater Mercer County (UWGMC) has been striving to create a better tomorrow for every person in the Mercer County community. Their commitment has remained steadfast throughout the years and they continue to shift their focus as needs in the community change.
United Way of Greater Mercer County. www.uwgmc.org and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.