By: Tamara Orozco
Zimka, a Bay Area tax accountant, used to take her job for granted—“I’d say, ‘I’m just a tax accountant.’” That all changed when she began volunteering with United Way Bay Area’s Earn It! Keep It! Save It! program (EKS), a free tax preparation service that helps ensure low- and moderate-income families get the tax refunds they deserve.
“We don’t realize how much impact we can make by providing our expertise,” Zimka says. The full impact of her volunteer efforts became clear to her when she met with her second client through EKS. Zimka says that it was a complex return—including one business-owner parent, one daycare worker parent, and three children—but that she was thrilled when their tax liability went from owing $1200 to receiving a $19 tax refund.
“The family was so thankful,” she says. The experience changed Zimka’s perspective on her job and her life: “I only helped two families… but [I thought], ‘do you realize, you helped save so much money for them and that could be their month of rent.’”
Earn It! Keep It! Save It! (EKS) is a cornerstone of United Way Bay Area’s efforts to connect struggling individuals with one-stop services that empower them to improve their financial standing and contribute to the local economy. Operating at centers throughout the Bay Area, EKS helped 78,000 local residents file their taxes for free last year, bringing back $82 million in tax refunds to low- and moderate-income families.
“It’s great how this one program can make so much impact,” Zimka says of her time volunteering with EKS. “I would definitely volunteer again.”
Earn It! Keep It! Save It! is a coalition of Bay Area organizations that provide free tax preparation to households earning less than $55,000 a year. United Way Bay Area partners with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), churches, nonprofits, AARP, and other organizations to scale the free tax preparation effort across the region. To volunteer, sign up here.