New Survey Finds Most Americans Unaware of Free Tax Filing Help & Tax Credits

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Lowell, AR – United Way of Northwest Arkansas encourages Americans earning $62,000 or less to keep more of their hard-earned money this tax season by using a free, online tax preparation service and accessing valuable tax credits. A new national survey finds 72 percent of working Americans making that amount or less are unaware they qualify for free tax filing and counseling.

The survey, conducted for United Way Worldwide, finds that most respondents are unfamiliar with MyFreeTaxes.com, a mobile-optimized software program allowing free federal and state tax preparation and filing in all 50 states and Washington, DC. The self-file service is available for anyone earning $62,000 or less. United Way also offers free in-person filing assistance through our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites. On average, filers can save $210 in tax preparation fees by using the free platform.

“We recognize that affordable tax preparation services are out of reach for many in our community,” said Alexa McGriff, Marketing Director for United Way NWA. “In addition to the savings derived from using this service, taxpayers can reduce the amount of income tax they pay by claiming valuable credits. We know that tax refunds help many in our community achieve greater financial stability, and we want to help them keep more of what they earn.”

Limited Awareness of Tax Credits

Many of the 1,000 adults surveyed were unaware that they were eligible for tax credits. Just four in ten adults reported awareness of the Child Tax Credit (CTC), while fewer than 60 percent said they are familiar with the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).  Almost 20 percent were not aware of any tax credits they could access.

Last year, 3,745 people in Northwest Arkansas had their taxes prepared through the VITA and MyFreeTaxes.com, resulting in over $4.3 million in tax refunds and another $3 million from the Earned Income Tax Credit. In total, this work helped put $7.3 million back into the pocks of Northwest Arkansas residents. The IRS estimates that the average cost to file a return is $210, which means this initiative helped save a total of $786,450 in tax preparation fees.

Nationally in 2015, taxpayers used VITA to complete nearly 2 million returns, bringing $2.35 billion back to communities, including more than $681 million in refunds from tax credits, which Congress made permanent at the end of 2015.

Spending Refunds on Critical Needs

Tax refunds help working Americans put money in their pockets for everyday items and save for the future. About 23 percent of those asked say they spend their refunds for food, while 22 percent spend the money on housing costs; 31 percent use their refunds for utilities. A quarter of those who receive refunds put the money into savings or invest the funds for the future.

United Way NWA Can Help With Tax Preparation

Filers can enter data into the secure MyFreeTaxes site anytime, from anywhere, making it easy to update the documents from home, at work or on mobile devices. The service also includes a helpline, 1-855-MY-TX-HELP, which operates through April 18 from 10:00 am until 10:00 pm EST Monday through Friday and noon to 9:00 pm EST Saturday; staff will continue to provide assistance on a more limited basis through October 15, based on demand. The website also provides a live chat function. To find a VITA site near you, visit MyFreeTaxes.com or call 1-855-MY-TX-HELP.

Individuals earning more than $62,000 a year can still use the H&R Block software through the MyFreeTaxes site at a discounted rate.

MyFreeTaxes is provided by United Way, with the support of a grant from the Walmart Foundation. The tax filing software is provided by H&R Block and free tax support is available in English and Spanish by IRS-certified specialists.

The national public opinion survey was conducted for United Way Worldwide November 18-23, 2015 using Lightspeed GMI online survey. The study was conducted among a national sample of 1,000 American adults with income of $62,000 or below. The total sample is balanced to be representative of the U.S. adult population in terms of age, sex, geographic region, race and education. The margin of error for the total sample of 1000 adults is +/-4 % with a confidence level of 95 percent.

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