Making the most of tax season
This past year has been incredibly challenging for so many Boston individuals and families. With tax season upon us, now, more than ever, it is critical that residents are taking advantage of tax credits to maximize their refunds and decrease the amount of taxes they owe.
The City of Boston’s Office of Financial Empowerment and the Boston Tax Help Coalition (BTHC) are currently offering free tax preparation services for income eligible Boston residents. This year’s tax season has been extended to May 17th due to the COVID-19 pandemic and there is still time for individuals and families to get their taxes completed and submitted for free with an IRS-trained and certified volunteer.
Tax Saving Credits
The BTHC and its network of community partners have modified tax preparation services to provide both in-person and virtual appointments to ensure all qualified residents can file safely while maximizing their tax refunds and taking advantage of credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC allows qualifying workers and families to reduce the taxes they owe and substantially increase their refund. In 2020, eligible taxpayers received on average $2,461 back through the EITC. Nearly 20 percent of all eligible filers do not receive the credit and approximately $10 million dollars of EITC is left unclaimed in Boston.
Due to the pandemic and extensive job losses, many taxpayers’ refunds could be negatively impacted. To protect taxpayers from losing refund dollars, Congress created a “Lookback Provision” which allows taxpayers to look back at their 2019 income to calculate their refund amount. Individuals may elect to use their 2019 earned income to calculate their 2020 Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) if their 2019 earned income is more than their 2020 earned income. Residents should bring a copy of their 2019 taxes with them to the tax appointment, whether with the Boston Tax Help Coalition or another preparer, to ensure they get the largest EITC and Child Tax Credit possible.
Making a Tax Preparation Appointment
BTHC serves approximately 13,000 taxpayers annually, training hundreds of IRS-certified volunteers whose work returns $24 million in refunds and credits directly to taxpayers. Free tax preparation and wealth building opportunities are available to residents both in the community and online, however due to the pandemic residents must call ahead to make an appointment. There are free resources available so taxpayers can file their taxes from home or take advantage of scheduled drop-off assistance from trained staff and volunteers to minimize personal contact. Tax preparation services are available in English, Spanish, Haitian Creole, Cape Verdean Creole, Portuguese, French, Vietnamese, Mandarin and Cantonese.
To make an appointment and access the most current information on how to access remote services or to find a convenient drop off site, visit www.bostontaxhelp.org, email: FreeTaxHelp@Boston.gov, or call 311.
Other Financial Literacy Programs
In addition to tax preparation, the BTHC provides clients with other free services to improve their financial health. Bank On Boston, a key program of the City of Boston’s Office of Financial Empowerment, helps residents identify banking services that are safe, affordable, and non-predatory. If you are looking to open a checking or savings account, write to BankOnBoston@Boston.Gov. Trained Financial Guides offer taxpayers the Financial Check-Up, a key component of Boston Builds Credit, the City’s free credit building program. A Financial Check-Up is a one-on-one session in which a taxpayer can review his or her credit score and obtain personalized credit-building strategies.
Mayor’s Office of Financial Empowerment
The City of Boston’s Office of Financial Empowerment increases accessibility to free tax services through outreach and materials in English and eight other languages including Arabic, Cape Verdean Creole, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, Spanish and Vietnamese. The Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE) was created in 2014 to address racial wealth disparities and connect Boston residents with equitable wealth building strategies, provide credit building opportunities, financial education, individualized financial coaching, and income supports. Residents seeking to improve their financial stability can use these free programs to achieve economic well-being and pursue financial prosperity. OFE is also a lead partner on Boston Builds Credit, the first municipal credit building program in the United States.