By Ross Yednock, Project Director, Michigan Economic Impact Coalition (MEIC)

Everyone does it. Or, at least, most people do. Some do it them on their own, others shell out their hard earned money and pay to have it done. But for those that learn about free tax preparation services, the savings can be huge.

This year, I had the opportunity to meet many of the clients of Michigan Economic Impact Coalition (MEIC) member sites: a school bus driver unable to afford retirement; a Little Cesar’s Pizza employee and new mother of an eight-week old daughter; a former long-haul trucker; a retiree from New Mexico who moved to Michigan to be close to family; a Meijer clerk; a graphic designer. Just as diverse as their backgrounds were the places I met them: a United Way office in Ann Arbor; a church in Grand Rapids; an old school building in Montcalm County; a municipal building in Lansing; a public library in Jackson; and an apartment complex in Inkster. Opportunities for free-tax assistance does not open and close during business hours – they are designed to accommodate working families, and offer evening and weekend hours.

Positive people fill the room at the different tax sites throughout Michigan. Many of them will receive refunds this year, some owed money and others were receiving less than they had in previous years. The story remains the same: all saved their hard-earned money by getting their taxes completed for free, by IRS trained and certified tax preparers. Those that paid to have their taxes done in the past, have paid more than $250 – $350 dollars (often more than 3-4 days of wages for low-income workers) to do relatively simple returns.

What I have learned has been both eye-opening and heartwarming. The clients come from all walks of life and learned about the free tax programs in a variety of ways. And while the plans they have for any refund they receive differ depending on their circumstances, all of their plans seem to have a similar focus – improving their financial situation by getting caught up on bills, paying property taxes, paying down debt and medical costs – and most talk about trying to save a little bit for a rainy day. (read some of last year’s stories).

For those that have yet to file their taxes this year, it’s not too late. You have until Tuesday, April 15, 2014 to file your 2013 taxes and there are plenty of free options available to help. Go to MichiganFreeTaxHelp.org, or call 2-1-1 to find a site near you. You can also try to do them yourself, using free software that includes toll-free hotline to answer any questions should you run into any problems (link to the organizations with the special symbol on this page for more information). And for those that have used a free site, share your story and you could win one of fifteen $100 gift cards.

 

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