At tax time, many hard-working Bay Area families turn to Free Tax Help with United Way Bay Area at sites around our region. The program is designed to provide low- and moderate-income people with quality, no-cost tax preparation services. The service is a much-needed lifeline for those who struggle to make ends meet and is operated by a 100% volunteer staff of caring individuals like Maria, who take their roles to heart.
“When I retired, I wanted to volunteer…I wanted to give back to the community,” said Maria. “I tried different organizations and what I liked about United Way was that I was working mostly with volunteers.”
Each year, United Way Bay Area recruits hundreds of volunteers to prepare tax returns for people seeking the assistance. Because volunteers aren’t pressured to churn out as many returns as possible, they can take the time to ask questions and educate clients about their specific rights and responsibilities under our tax laws.
“If a person needs more explanation, you can spend more time with them. That’s something that comes from being relaxed, being a volunteer.”
Maria points out that gig workers, who are typically classified as independent contractors, may not realize they have to pay roughly double in Social Security and Medicare taxes. But they can also take deductions they otherwise could not as employees.
She also has time to educate clients about the California Earned Income Tax Credit (Cal EITC) and the California Young Child Tax Credit (YCTC). These credits can mean larger refunds for families struggling to ensure their basic needs are met.
Maria finds it particularly rewarding when she can help seniors, often with limited income, because some are navigating the tax system for the first time on their own. She gets to explain the different types of income and deductions that are available and walk them through the process.
For many of us, taxes are the last thing on our to-do list. But for Maria, access to this service for those that need it is top of her list, so she expects to volunteer for the foreseeable future.
“You do your best. Do as much as you can, but you offer better service.”
Tax season will be here before you know it. You can join Maria in providing access to no-cost quality tax services to our Bay Area neighbors. Visit the UWBA Free Tax Help Volunteer site for information about volunteering and how to start getting your certification today!