Campaign for Working Families provides free tax preparationMar 13, 2023 12:00PM ● By SueAnn Rybak
Image: Yvonne Hughes and husband
Yvonne Hughes, 80, of Northwest Philadelphia, said, “Campaign for Working Families’ free tax preparation is a blessing.”
Yvonne’s hands are swollen from arthritis. “It’s difficult to sign a check,” she said.
Recently, the doctor gave her a shot of steroids in her hands. Despite the severe pain, Yvonne said she must clean and scrub everything because her husband has leukemia.
Hughes and her husband, who is 85, have been coming to Campaign for Working Families (CWF), located at 1415 N. Broad Street in Philadelphia, for four years to get their taxes done. It’s just one of their 25 sites across Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey.
Before coming to CWF, they used to pay hundreds of dollars to get their taxes done. Now, she uses that money to pay their medical bills.
CWF is a nonprofit organization that helps working families and individuals achieve economic empowerment by providing free tax preparation, resource building, and asset development.
Jose Diaz, 52, who is currently homeless, said he heard about CWF from an information pamphlet at Broad Street Ministries.
“Right now, I don’t have two pennies to rub together,” he said.
Diaz added the IRS website is confusing.
“The volunteers are patient and professional,” he said. “They are helping me retrieve my documents for my 2021 taxes. If I get a refund, it will help me get back on my feet.”
Diana Allinger, director of volunteer engagement and partnerships at CWF, said the nonprofit’s mission is to “elevate the economic well-being of families and individuals.” One way CWF does this is by helping people who earn $6,000 or less annually file their taxes for free.
“That is extremely significant for a lot of low-income families,” Allinger said. “A large percentage of people who get their taxes done here make under $30,000 a year. Some families may receive up to $6,000 in their refund. So, that is a significant portion of their yearly earnings.”
She said CWF’s clients receive professional-level preparation for free.
All CWF’s volunteers are IRS-certified. Before clients’ taxes are filed, they are reviewed by a paid site manager with professional tax experience to ensure people get the best refund possible.
“A lot of the stimulus and credits that people received last year due to the pandemic are no longer available,” Allinger said. “so their refunds might be lower than they were last year.”
In addition to the free tax service, the nonprofit also has a benefits team that connects people to the government and social services they are eligible for.
Thanks to CWF’s diverse pool of volunteers, interns and site managers, the nonprofit can provide services for people who don’t speak English.
“Recently, we had someone come in to get their taxes filed who only spoke Hindi,” she said.
“One of our interns was able to sit down with the client face-to-face and help them with their taxes.”
Elizabeth Olson, the volunteer coordinator at CWF, said, “We couldn’t do what we do without the help of their volunteers.”
CWF has trained over 400 volunteers this year, and Olson expects a few more people to sign up for its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.
She said their volunteers can help community members file their taxes with as little as eight hours of training.
The nonprofit launched its volunteer training campaign in January and offered live webinars and in-person training. CWF is currently working with some high school students to finish their certifications.
She said their volunteers are not only helping their community, but they are walking away with valuable skills.
Bochy Fu, tax professional and CWF volunteer
Bochy Fu, who speaks fluent Mandarin and English, is a paid tax professional and one of CFW’s many volunteers.
Fu, 42, of Lawncrest, who also volunteers at CWF’s northeast supersite, said the nonprofit could help clients who may speak Turkish, Russian, Albanian and more.
“The first thing you have to do is get over the language barrier,” he said. “Clients need someone who can speak their language because there are many nuances in languages.”
He explained that Apps like Google Translate do not provide direct translations from one language to another. For example, the phrase “big brother” sometimes has a negative connotation.
“Sometimes clients – especially those for whom English is a second language – have had negative experiences with other tax preparers and feel cheated,” Fu said. “Some people filed their taxes through Turbo Tax and were rejected, but not necessarily for any reason. I encountered a few of them virtually last year. However, after I reviewed their taxes, not only were they accepted, but without any issue.”
“Sometimes clients are very anxious,” he said. “Campaign for Working Families is able to relieve some of their fears and connect them to resources they need.”
For more information about Campaign for Working Families, go to www.cwfphilly.org/
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