2-1-1 Helpline: Connecting Those in Need With Over $15 Million in Federal Refunds

2-1-1 Helpline: Connecting Those in Need With Over $15 Million in Federal Refunds

Date: March 21, 2017

For many people, preparing annual income taxes is about appealing as a root canal—but if you’re due a refund, it’s worth the effort. That’s particularly true for moderate- and low-income earners who rely on those refunds for life’s necessities, such as paying rent and monthly bills or buying food for their families.

Unfortunately, filers who prepare their own taxes often don’t realize many of the potential deductions they could be claiming. For instance, a married couple with three or more children and a household income of less than $53,505 qualifies for a federal tax credit of up to $6,269 for the tax year 2016, according to the IRS.

The IRS estimates that 80 percent of people eligible for the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, a refundable tax credit for lower-income, working individuals and couples (particularly those with children) claim it—meaning 20 percent are missing out on what could add up to a more significant refund. That’s real money—and that’s where the 2-1-1 Maryland United Way Helpline can lend a hand.

United Way of Central Maryland, partnering with the Baltimore CASH (Creating Assets, Savings & Hope) Campaign, ensures that low- and moderate-income filers know where they can turn for free tax preparation services. 2-1-1 Helpline call specialists arrange appointments for callers with household incomes under $54,000 at Baltimore CASH Campaign’s free tax preparation sites in the Greater Baltimore area and inform callers of other free tax sites throughout central Maryland. The service can help save people hundreds of dollars on tax preparation and give them the confidence that they will get the most money back in their refund.

Last year, the 2-1-1 Helpline fielded 21,600 calls between January and April. According to the CASH campaign, over 9,000 people received more than $15 million in federal and state tax refunds. These refunds meant that families served were able to pay their rent or have their gas and electric services restored.

What’s more, tax preparers are also available to help families meet other financial goals. “Many of our free referral agencies can help people set up savings accounts and develop budget-management and asset-building strategies,” said Brandi Nieland, director of the Helpline. “We really take a comprehensive look at each person’s or each family’s situation, and consider all resources that might help them.”

United Way of Central Maryland is looking for 2-1-1 Helpline volunteers to help answer calls, schedule tax appointments and more. For more information, email Sue Poandl.

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