Tax Season strikes again: helpful tips to get you through from Just Harvest

Elysa Schwartz from Just Harvest
Elysa Schwartz from Just Harvest

As we inch closer and closer to April, taxes are on everyone’s mind. While many people are fortunate to have an income that allows them to have a professional do their taxes or the understanding of the process to do their own, there are members of our community who might need some assistance – both financially and understanding the many complexities of our tax system and the refunds that might be available.

Just Harvest educates, empowers and mobilizes people to eliminate hunger, poverty, and economic injustice in our communities. Part of this work involves helping local hardworking individuals file their taxes free of charge through a partnership with United Way of Southwestern PA’s Free Tax Prep Program, South Hills Interfaith Movement and other local agencies. The sites are powered by local IRS-certified volunteer tax preparers.

Local individuals and families can dial United Way’s 2-1-1 to see if they qualify for free tax prep assistance. 2-1-1 is a hotline that connects people in need with a multitude of services. Upon calling in, tax-payers will select the option for Free Tax Prep and be transferred to a specialist to explain the income requirements and advise which documents must be provided at the appointment. The specialist will then set up an appointment that’s convenient for the client.

SHIM’s Prospect Park Family Center tax site is unique among other Just Harvest tax sites in that the majority of the clients are refugees. Many of the clients speak very limited English, so an interpreter is on-site to assist and ensure the client and tax prep volunteer are able to communicate and meet the tax payer’s needs. In some cases, families bring their children who might be able to help interpret for them.

Whether you’re doing your taxes on your own, heading to one of our Free Tax Prep sites or receiving assistance elsewhere, it’s important to be prepared with all of your paperwork and information. From our experience, we suggest getting your things in order using the list below.

  • Identification: Bring your own photo ID and social security card, and if you are filing dependents, make sure to bring their social security cards, as well.
  • Your spouse: Don’t leave your husband or wife behind! If you’re filing together, make sure to bring your spouse along, and remind them to also bring their photo ID and social security card.
  • Documents: Keep all tax-related documents, such as W2s, 1098T, 1099R, etc., in one place and make sure you don’t leave them at home during your tax appointment.
  • Schedule C: This one doesn’t pertain to everyone, but if you’re filing a Schedule C, keep careful records of expenses and miles throughout the year and bring them with you to your tax appointment.
  • Business expenses: If you happen to have any un-reimbursed employee business expenses, such as a uniform, special shoes, or union dues, keep careful record and bring those with you, as well.

Consider volunteering next year as a greeter or tax preparer. Free training is provided to all volunteers. You can go to Just Harvest’s website here to learn more and apply.