Lillian Boyd, The Capistrano Dispatch
Orange County United Way is offering free tax preparation and electronic filing to low- and moderate-income individuals and families through its OC Free Tax Prep program, a United for Financial Security Initiative.
OC Free Tax Prep was established in 2005 to help qualifying individuals keep more of their money and increase the number of financially stable households in Orange County to break the cycle of poverty. To date, the program has served more than 121,000 taxpayers, which amounts to more than $23 million saved in tax preparation fees.
“Every year, low-income residents miss out on millions of dollars in federal and California tax refunds and credits that they are entitled to and deserve. Our OC Free Tax Prep program helps these hard-working people keep more of their earnings,” said Susan B. Parks, President and CEO, Orange County United Way. “Many of these families already face financial struggles, and the pandemic has caused even greater strain. These tax refunds and credits will provide a much-needed boost to help pay for rent, food or medical expenses.”
For households earning less than $30,000 in 2020, the expanded California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC) may qualify them for hundreds or even thousands of extra dollars in their refund. In addition to CalEITC, they may also be eligible for the Federal EITC if they earn less than $57,000, increasing their refund even more.
New this year, the CalEITC has been expanded to tax filers who use an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). If anyone who qualifies for CalEITC has children younger than 6 years of age, they may also be eligible for the Young Child Tax Credit (YCTC). Orange County United Way is working with First 5 Orange County in the hope of reaching young families.
Households that earned less than $60,000 in 2020, but don’t qualify for EITC, are still eligible for free tax filing services.
The program offers three ways of filing—virtually by uploading your tax documents to a secure online portal with your mobile device, online at MyFreeTaxes.com, or at contactless drop-off locations with IRS-certified Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) preparers on-site. There are 18 contactless VITA sites in Orange County, with locations at community resource centers, churches and schools. Multilingual preparers are available upon request.
In partnership with the City of Irvine, the County of Orange and the office of Supervisor Don Wagner, free tax prep will be available in the parking lot of Cypress Community Park through a new mobile unit (E- Bus), complete with Wi-Fi and computer stations. Tax prep takes place on Wednesday’s, starting February 10 through April 7. Appointments are required.
In 2020, Orange County United Way and its coalition partners filed 14,200 tax returns, securing $17.6 million in federal and state refunds for individuals and families. A full list of VITA contactless drop-off locations can be found at ocfreetaxprep.com/locations.
To make an appointment for the E-Bus or get answers to questions, call 888.434.8248. Masks are required for all contactless drop-off locations. The deadline to file is April 15, 2021.