By: Kat Russo
What could be more rewarding than helping low- to moderate-income Bay Area families and supporting the local economy? We don’t know either! United Way Bay Area through its Earn It! Keep It! Save It! (EKS) program is offering volunteers the chance to help tens of thousands of Bay Area residents file their taxes for free. Last year, EKS brought in $82 million in refunds to families and individuals–80% of refunds being spent locally. And in 2018, we had the help of more than 2,700 volunteers to make this happen.
Noah Metz, a Tax Attorney, and a volunteer of two years says, “I find it very nice to have a concrete impact on literally hundreds of families in a year. I think there’s a lot of lawyers that want to do pro-bono work but they struggle to find tangible impact.”
And while Tax Attorneys make great volunteers, no prior tax experience is necessary to volunteer with EKS. Volunteers receive free hands on training and IRS certification before they start working at a tax site.
“This program exists only because there are volunteers out there,” says Noah. “Someone may be sitting on the fence, assuming that if they don’t volunteer, there will be enough volunteers and it will be fine. But if we had more volunteers, we could serve more people. I would encourage people to sign up. We train them to be serving the community in a way that they feel comfortable. I think anyone can do it and there a lot of different ways to help!”
In 2019, EKS is excited to serve even more people considering the California Earned Income Tax Credit was expanded to serve households, including those who may not have filed in the past. The expansion now makes the credit available to: all adult workers who make less than $16,750 if there are no qualifying children ($24,950 if there are one or more qualifying children); younger workers 18-24; and those over 65. “A few hundred bucks to someone in this income bracket is a huge deal so I’m sure it will be very well received,” says Noah.
Volunteers like Noah will be even more necessary this year as Bay Area residents navigate filing taxes using the new tax code.
Training is underway and there are shifts and locations throughout the Bay Area every day of the week. Visit https://earnitkeepitsaveit.org/volunteer/ to register for an online orientation, sign up for a site, and learn more!