A statewide nonprofit agency and the University of North Alabama are teaming up to help eligible working families in northwest Alabama get the most out of their tax returns.
The agency, called Impact Alabama, oversees the tax preparation program, which was initiated in the state by Stephen Black, founder and president of the organization.
Black said the tax program, called the SaveFirst initiative, will provide free income tax preparation services to eligible families. Those include families earning less than $50,000 a year who have children in the household and families earning less than $20,000 a year without children at home.
Helping with the effort will be 35 University of North Alabama business students who are trained and certified at preparing tax returns, under the supervision of Impact Alabama personnel, Black said.
The tax preparation site this year is at Weeden Elementary School, 400 Baldwin St., in east Florence. The site is open Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays beginning this week through March 2.
Eligible families interested in finding out more information or making an appointment can call 1-888-998-2925.
This is the third year UNA will participate in SaveFirst, said Greg Carnes, an accounting and business law professor.
Carnes said the program helps the students, who are accounting majors, as well as those who need assistance in filing income tax returns.
“They’re developing professional skills because they’re applying what they do in the classroom,” Carnes said. “At the same time, it’s a service project because they’re helping the families who qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit and should be receiving a substantial refund.”
Carnes said the program also helps families avoid high fees charged by some tax preparation businesses.
Many local school systems distribute cards to students so their parents know about the free tax program.
Sheffield City Schools Superintendent Tim Morgan said this is a good opportunity for eligible families.
“I just wish we’d get more people to take advantage of this free program,” Morgan said.
“They’d be using somebody they can trust, and it could save them money. It’s a safe service, and nobody will take any of your money.”
The program is aimed at helping families eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit. Black said the tax credit is the federal government’s largest anti-poverty program for low-income working families.
The SaveFirst initiative is in its seventh year. Last year, the program trained more than 450 students from 15 colleges and universities to prepare returns for more than 5,100 families in Alabama.
The program saved the families more than $1.5 million they would have spent in commercial tax preparation fees, while securing more than $9.2 million in refunds, Black said.
He emphasized that the tax returns prepared by the students are checked and rechecked before being filed.
Bernie Delinski can be reached at 256-740-5739 or bernie.delinski@TimesDaily.com.