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Archive for the ‘Free Tax Preparation Campaign’ Category

Get involved with United Way of King County’s Free Tax Preparation Campaign and join the nation’s largest anti-poverty effort! Help low-and moderate-income individuals and families in King County keep more of what they earn! With the assistance of over 530 volunteers, the 2009 Campaign filed 13,631 tax returns, and returned over $17.3 million in federal refunds; $5.2 million in Earned Income Tax Credits. All of this was accomplished at no cost to our tax customers, and we estimate that we saved our customers over $1 million in tax preparation fees!

The United Way Free Tax Campaign Needs Volunteers!

By volunteering once per week during the 2010 tax season, you can help us meet our goal of putting more than $17 million back into the pockets of low-and moderate-income working individuals and families in King County. Speakers of Chinese, Vietnamese, Spanish, Somali, Korean and Russian languages are especially needed.

No Experience Necessary! All volunteers receive free tax preparation training and are certified by the IRS. Slots at some sites tend to fill up very fast, so don’t wait! Sign up now! And then send this along to someone else who should sign up. You can select your own site and shift, and select your preferred days of training. It’s really easy. And you’ll feel better.

If you need more information or have any questions, feel free to contact Courtney Noble (cnoble@uwkc.org, 206-461-5048), Patrick Kelley (pkelley@uwkc.org, 206-461-5083) or Matt Levin (mlevin@uwkc.org, 206-461-4562).

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[This post is written by Guest Blogger and Free Tax Prep volunteer extraordinaire Octavia Hathaway. Homeowners in need of help can begin signing up on the website beginning June 1st.–Patrick]

The Washington State Bar Association, acknowledging the alarming rise in foreclosures in this state, has decided to start the Home Foreclosure Legal Aid Project (HFLAP). This is the website set up to inform the public, but mainly it is the portal for all lawyers in the state to sign up and volunteer to provide assistance in foreclosure proceedings.

Lawyers are uniquely qualified to help in this pressing matter. Even if your practice does not include foreclosures or bankruptcy, you can learn the basics as the WSBA is developing online training and is making available a panel of experts and mentors.

Lawyers are scheduled to be deployed by June 1, 2009. If you know of any lawyers, please encourage them to volunteer. If you know of someone who is on the brink of losing his home, let them know that this is available and that they can get some help from a real lawyer. There is no cost to them.

As a matter of fact, do not wait until you are already delinquent in your mortgage payments. There are probably preemptive steps you can and should take now to avert foreclosure. I am aware of many financial institutions, including credit unions, that will work with you on a loan modification or refinance. Begin by talking to your mortgage lender about options you may have. We are all in this together, and any recovery is meaningless as long as there are families out there still mired in poverty and hopelessness.

–Octavia Hathaway (octavia_hathaway@hotmail.com)

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Things are happening fast this month!

  • Wednesday is the Community Resource Exchange! Dozens of service providers will convene in one place on one day to help over a thousand homeless individuals and families. Keep an eye on this blog to hear stories from our volunteers!
  • Next Wednesday is April 15th, which means your taxes are due. Our tax prep sites will be doing paper returns ONLY for this final week (no e-filing), so be sure to come in and get your return completed so you have time to drop it in the mail by the 15th. If you need to file an extension, you can file a Form 4868, but keep in mind that an extension to FILE is not an extension to PAY if you owe money. Failing to file by the 15th could also cause you to have a late-filing penalty in addition to your tax owed and interest accrued.
  • Hunger Action Week is April 20-24! Participate in our Hunger Challenge and see what it’s like to survive on $7 for food per day (the maximum per person in food stamp benefits per day). Read more about what’s happening, sign up for the Challenge, and offer your thoughts on our blog.
  • And finally, there’s a lot of chatter out there about deficits, and spending cuts, and a state income tax. The Times suggests that items like the GA-U are “less urgent” in the face of proposed cuts to education. The legislature meanwhile began consideration of a state income tax, which my friends over at the Times editorial board politely referred to as “fairy dust“. So, I know what the Seattle Times thinks about all this. What do you think? What would you cut? Or if cutting isn’t the answer, how would you increase revenue? Is an income tax a good idea?

    I really want to know.

    Patrick Kelley

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    With exactly two weeks left before Tax Day, United Way of King County’s Free Tax Preparation volunteers have prepared 10,323 federal returns and brought back more than $14.5 million in refunds into King County, including over $4.5 million in EITC.
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    Our site managers and volunteers continue to do amazing work!
    Great job, everyone!

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    city-inside-outUnited Way of King County and a bunch of other organizations like Seattle Works, Seattle Jobs Initiative, Northwest Harvest, and the City of Seattle were recently featured on Seattle Channel’s City Inside/Out.

    The episode was about the various resources available to those struggling in these tough economic times. They hit on a bunch of useful resources such as UWKC’s own free tax preparation and the city’s utility assistance program.

    The list is very thorough, so you should definitely check it out: http://www.seattlechannel.org/CityInsideOut/links.asp

    And to watch the full episode, you can view it here: http://tinyurl.com/d6tay3

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    I’ve been reading a lot lately, which for me, usually means nothing good can come of this. Because I start to think, and as I start to really think, I begin losing sleep. And that’s when I get crazy. I start to look at things, and imagine how they came to be, and really start to wonder if it really “just has to be that way.” Typically, my response during this after-midnight conversation is “of course not.” And then I laugh, sigh, and say (sometimes out loud), “Well, that’s just crazy.” But these are crazy times, so I’m just going to pretend for a while that I actually fit in with everything going on around me.

    Here are a few tidbits that I’ve come across in my readings over the past week:

  • Meet Tim at Pimp This Bum. This is great. See how a western Washington recovery program stepped up to help get Tim back on his feet. And controversy over the website name? Give me a break. Over 375,000 visitors since the site went live…seems like successful marketing to me.
  • In King County, 45% of renters and 41% of home owners were paying more than 30% of their income for housing (the federal definition of ‘unaffordable’) in 2007. Nationally, 16% of all American households (17.6 million) were paying more than 50% of their income for housing in 2008. In the face of those types of housing costs, is it any wonder that so many are struggling in this recession? But just stop for a moment and think about who could really use some help.
  • “What I miss most is having a pet.” This is Crystal, who’s 11. Her family has been living in a motel for three years. Her dad was a computer tech who had to leave his job for medical reasons. Her mom just had her hours cut in half working the night shift at the local Target. Read about them and others in the ‘hidden homeless’ population living in hotels and motels in the New York Times.
  • The cost of hunger in America staggers my crazy imagination. The US pays more than $90 billion annually for direct and indirect costs of people experiencing hunger in our country—children who are absent from school and are more susceptible to health problems, adults who can’t focus at work or are sick more often and actually have to miss work, and seniors who have extended hospital stays or suffer from isolation due to disability and lack of a regular food delivery system.
  • If you missed it, our First Lady Michelle Obama spent some time earlier this month serving meals at a food program called Miriam’s Kitchen. It turns out some people were more interested in the fact that someone being served at the shelter had a cell phone camera to capture the moment…as if people getting a bowl of soup at a homeless shelter shouldn’t be allowed to own a cell phone, much less create a lasting (and happy) memory. Read Shannon Moriarty’s great blog post at Change.org.
  • So we can’t seem to shelter or feed ourselves, or if we do, it’s highly inefficient and at great cost. So my exhausted brain turns to this: isn’t it just a little crazy that a society as intelligent as ours would base a person’s access to our most basic needs (shelter, health care and food) on that someone’s ability to pay for them? Sure, it might be okay, if children didn’t get sick, or employees never got laid off (while their CEO walked away with a multi-million dollar severance), or seniors never got old. Sure, it could work, if ‘minimum’ wage actually meant ‘livable’ wage, where people could be assured to earn enough to pay for food, shelter and health care for themselves and their loved ones, while still saving a bit each month for when the car breaks down. If we could pride ourselves on our investments in public education instead of hedging and hawing about where we should build our next, bigger and better prison, then we might be able to get by with tying basic needs to traditional supply and demand economics. But that’s not the world we live in, is it?

    Thankfully (‘thankfully??’), that world is changing right before our eyes. We should always be careful when we place our values and judgments on others, but particularly in an economic sense…why do we question the poor person who has a cell phone, when we know full well how important our technology is to us when it comes to staying in touch with loved ones? Why do we think people who wait in line at a food bank or some other social service space should be okay with that lengthy wait, when we know how annoyed we can get if there are more than four people in front of us in line at the grocery store? Why do we shake our heads at the young pregnant woman on the bus playing with her two other young children, when so many of us look forward with glee to the sound of our child’s laughter?

    These are not ‘poor’ people. They are people. I have seen many in our area at our tax preparation sites over the past few months. Many were living on hard times long before this recession we’re now in, and a lot of them aren’t going to be ‘bailed out.’ But they still have dreams for their children. They still want that training to try to get a better job, even if they don’t know how they’re going to pay for it. They still participate in their neighborhoods, their schools, and their religious organizations. And sometimes they still think of and do these things and more, while not always knowing if they’ll be able to buy food next month or pay for their heat during this cold snap. And to me, that makes them just a little heroic.

    I am gainfully employed, making a decent salary, have health insurance, no kids, I love food, and although I’m just as in danger of getting laid off as any of us are in this economy, I don’t live in fear of that happening anytime soon. I am getting older, but I’m also learning how to take better care of myself (although I should really get some sleep soon). Basic needs are not things that I am generally concerned with in my life. But what I am concerned about is this: when we come out of this (and by we, I mean that thing called ‘middle class’ where some of us are doing better than others), I hope it’s with a deeper understanding of that old adage, of just how alike we really are, and that we stop looking at ourselves as just a bunch of salary ranges. I’m counting on it. After all, I may not be ‘okay’ in a few months.

    –Patrick Kelley

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    As we get ready to celebrate at United Way of King County’s annual Spirit of Caring awards this evening, I have a little celebration of my own:

    We’ve just passed the half-way point of tax season, and our amazing Free Tax Prep program volunteers have done more than 6,100 returns, bringing more than $10.2 million in federal refunds back into the pockets of low- and moderate-income individuals and families right here in King County!! And the best part to me…all of this happens without costing the customer a penny. None of it would be possible without our volunteers and site managers, (extra)ordinary people who show up every week to do other people’s taxes.

    Here’s to a great second half of tax season!

    Patrick

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