Michigans Free Tax Prep Sites Looking for Volunteers / Public News Service

Free income tax preparers can help Michigan residents determine if they're eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit and other credits. (Adobe Stock)

Free income tax preparers can help Michigan residents determine if they’re eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit and other credits. (Adobe Stock)

October 17, 2019

LANSING, Mich. – The 2020 tax season isn’t far away, and free income tax filing programs are looking for Michiganders willing to give their time to help others.

The Consumers Energy Foundation has provided a $200,000 grant to support the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan’s tax assistance work, which includes hiring and training tax-prep volunteers.

Brian Wheeler, senior public information director at Consumers Energy, says the group’s interest is helping the people it serves in Michigan communities.

“As winter comes into place in Michigan it gets cold, people’s heating bills can rise,” he states. “We know that helping with tax assistance and tax preparation can deliver those sorts of financial benefits that help keep people on their feet, and keep them out of a bad situation.”

In Michigan, the IRS’ VITA program assists more than 100,000 taxpayers every year at sites around the state, helping them save nearly $18 million in tax preparation fees.

Amber Wiechec, VITA program coordinator for United Way of Saginaw County, says multiple volunteer positions are available, including tax preparers, greeters, who handle client intake, and site coordinators. She notes all volunteers must take and pass certain tests.

“A greeter may just need to take the IRS volunteer standards of conduct exam, which is basically an ethics exam,” she explains. “But tax preparers need to take that exam plus a couple other exams, including a certification in tax laws, and there are a couple of different levels for that.”

The grant will also help promote outreach to make more people aware of the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Michigan Homestead Property and Home Heating tax credits.

Wiechec explains tax preparers can help identify clients who are eligible for the credits, which can make a big difference at tax time.

“It’s very apparent when you volunteer what kind of impact you’re making, because you can see right in front of you the person you are helping,” she states. “You can also see what kind of see what refund they’re getting, if they’re getting a refund, so you can see the hard numbers in front of you.”

Information on the program or to become a volunteer is online at MichiganFreeTaxHelp.org or by calling 211.

Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service – MI

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