United Way is dedicated to helping families move out of poverty and officials say free, efficient and effective tax filing is a critical step toward a family’s opportunity to thrive. Over $22 million in tax refunds were returned to local families in the Greater Cincinnati region, thanks to United Way of Greater Cincinnati’s free tax preparation services and collaborative partners: the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program, the Ohio Benefit Bank and the Internal Revenue Service.
Through this service, nearly 750 volunteers prepared over 20,000 tax returns in 2018 for local families and individuals at 93 sites across Southwest Ohio, Northern Kentucky and Southeast Indiana, helping them receive refunds from tax withholdings or refundable credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC.) With the estimated cost of tax prep at $277, that’s approximately $5.86 million in value provided to the community through United Way and its partners.
“United Way’s free tax services help build financial stability and change the lives of thousands of families in our community,” said Ross Meyer, senior vice president and chief impact officer, United Way of Greater Cincinnati. “United Way is working to move local families out of poverty for good, and the EITC is our nation’s largest anti-poverty tool. It reduces the tax burden on low-wage workers, supplements wages, reduces income inequality and helps families build success.”
United Way leads local efforts for the national Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, a project where nearly 500 trained, certified volunteers help individuals and families file federal and state income tax returns. United Way’s MyFreeTaxes.com, the only free, national online tax filing product offered by a nonprofit, served nearly 2,000 people in 2018, and for the first time this year, United Way partnered with nearly 20 employers in Greater Cincinnati to use MyFreeTaxes as a tool for companies seeking to improve the financial wellbeing of their workforce.
Many local companies supported the entire initiative by volunteering, hosting and adopting tax preparation sites. Accounting firm EY recruited corporate volunteers and provided extensive training and support. GE Aviation and Kroger hosted tax sites, and Fifth Third, Park National, Union Savings, Huntington Banks, River Hills Bank and Rudler and Associates provided dedicated groups of volunteers. IRS Cincinnati Service Center volunteers ran a closed site to assist their co-workers.
Nonprofit organizations sponsoring sites include American Red Cross Booker T. Washington Community Center, Brighton Center; Center for Great Neighborhoods; Cincinnati-Hamilton and Northern Kentucky Community Action Agencies, Healing Center; Price Hill Will, Santa Maria Community Services, Southeastern Indiana Economic Opportunity Corporation and the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio. Universities participating included Gateway Community and Technical College, Xavier, University of Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky University and Thomas More college. Funders for the initiative include United Way of Greater Cincinnati, United Way Worldwide, H&R Block, First Financial Bank, Internal Revenue Service, Key Bank, PNC Bank, Republic Bank, and SC Ministry Foundation.
Limited tax preparation services will continue over the summer and fall for individuals needing to file after the deadline. This fall, United Way and its partners will begin recruiting and training volunteers for the next tax season.