Free tax assistance helps low-income Allegheny County residents to maximize their refunds
Pittsburgh, PA — On Saturday, February 10, Just Harvest and Repair the World Pittsburgh are hosting Pittsburgh’s first-ever Taxathon, a day-long event to raise awareness about the availability of free tax services and to celebrate Just Harvest’s 16th year of providing free tax assistance. On that day, all four Just Harvest Allegheny County tax sites will be open and its South Side site will offer extended hours from 9am to 9pm, with the goal of serving a total of 125 taxpayers at the four sites in one day.
In addition to assistance with completing their federal, state, and local income tax returns, participants will be able to apply for Food Stamps, enroll in health insurance with the Consumer Health Coalition, and get assistance resolving more complex IRS issues with the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service and the University of Pittsburgh Law School’s Low Income Tax Clinic. Repair the World is partnering with Just Harvest to recruit additional volunteers to provide food and children’s activities. Animal Friends will have four therapets and their trainers onsite as well.
Just Harvest offers free tax preparation services to households with a 2017 income of less than $45,000 ($25,000 for a single filer). Individuals will get free help determining their Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) eligibility and claiming the credits.
Every year, millions of workers – 1 in 5 of those eligible, according to IRS estimates – overlook these important federal tax credits because they simply don’t know about them or that they qualify. The EITC and the CTC make a real difference for low-income workers who are struggling to make ends meet. The EITC is one of the nation’s largest and most effective anti-poverty programs. In 2015, it lifted an estimated 6.5 million people out of poverty, more than half of them children.
The EITC is a refundable tax available to qualifying low-wage workers and their families. Workers earning less than about $50,000 in 2017 could qualify. Income guidelines vary based on filing status and number of children. Many people will qualify for the first time this year due to changes in their income, marital status, or parental status, according to the IRS.
“We want to make sure nobody is foregoing a tax break that can make a real difference in their lives,” said Kristie Weiland Stagno, Tax Campaign Coordinator. “Thanks to our trained and certified volunteer work force, we plan on assisting more than 3,000 taxpayers this year.”
In 2017, Just Harvest set an organizational record of 2,958 tax returns filed, returning $6.03 million to these households, $2.8 million of which via the EITC. In addition to the money refunded, the free program also saved clients more than $520,000 in tax prep fees.
A family’s tax refund also offers a chance to put some money into savings. Representatives from Fund My Future and Northside Common Ministries Financial Opportunity Center will be at the Taxathon to help families looking to save their tax refund for a rainy day or in a children’s savings account.
Just Harvest operates four Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites in Allegheny County from January 16 through April 17, 2018. The tax sites are: our main office at 16 Terminal Way in the South Side, CCAC Boyce Campus in Monroeville, Bedford Hope Center in the Hill District, and Prospect Park Family Center in Baldwin. They are operated in partnership with the United Way of Southwest PA’s Free Tax Prep Coalition (of which Just Harvest is a leading member) and the IRS. Repair the World is co-sponsoring the Taxathon event to help extend our services this tax season.
Taxpayers must have an appointment to receive services during the Taxathon or anytime throughout the tax season. They can schedule an appointment through United Way Resource Navigators by going online 24/7 to bit.ly/PA211TAXES or calling United Way Resource Navigators by dialing 2-1-1 or 888-553-5778 [scheduling hours: 8am-8pm (M-Th) and 8am-6pm (F)].
JUST HARVEST has been strengthening government’s response to hunger and poverty in Allegheny County since 1986, through a focus on public policy, safety net programs, and community food access.
REPAIR THE WORLD inspires American Jews to give time and effort to serve those in need. They aim to make service a defining part of American Jewish life.