Looking for a unique way to help out in your community? You should think about serving as a volunteer tax preparer this tax season!

Not only will you save families in your community a lot of money on tax preparation, you’ll help bring thousands of dedicated federal dollars to your local economy through take-up of tax credits by the clients you serve.

I know what you’re thinking, “Me? Do people’s taxes? Definitely not.” Even if you have some burning interest to figure out the forms, technical jargon, and other complexities of the U.S. tax code or just want to save money doing your own taxes, why would you choose to spend time completing returns from Feb. 1 – April 15 unless you’re getting (well) paid for it?

Funny as it may seem, doing taxes is pretty easy and even enjoyable, especially when you help people who are truly in need and may have been preyed upon in the past by high cost paid preparers. Volunteer tax preparers get to directly touch the lives of their neighbors, providing free assistance to help individuals and families make use of the tax benefits (like the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit) that they deserve.

When you hear about the things predatory preparers in Michigan will do (like charge upwards of 800% interest on a Refund Anticipation Loan) and find out how simple it is to help someone get the refund they deserve (by claiming tax credits like the EITC, home heating credit and the homestead property tax credit), the opportunity to serve as a volunteer preparer resonates as a truly impactful means of producing tangible benefits for your community.

Becoming a volunteer preparer builds skills you can use for the rest of your life (you will never have to pay someone to do your taxes again!) and looks great on a resume. You also get a chance to meet really cool people who, like you, want to be active and contributing members of their community. My first year as a tax preparer, I couldn’t believe how much fun the tax site became once I got to know the other preparers and experienced the camaraderie you find in a group of diverse people all coming together for a real purpose.

Check out the Michigan Earned Income Credit Coalition (MEIC) website to learn more about becoming a VITA volunteer preparer: www.michiganeic.org/. You can also call or email me to find out more.

Want to get started? To become a preparer, you must become IRS certified through an online or classroom training process. To check out the online training modules from the IRS go to: http://www.irs.gov/app/vita/. Contact your local VITA group to learn more about classroom training opportunities. You can find information on your local VITA program here.

This coming tax season, I hope you will join me and the hundreds of other volunteers across Michigan who provide such a valuable resource to their communities as volunteer tax preparers!

Megan Kursik, CEDAM, kursik@cedamichigan.org; 517-485-3588 x1942

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