Orange County United Way partners with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), other nonprofits and local businesses in Orange County to bring Orange County residence the OC FREE TAX PREP campaign. Those individuals and families that qualify can get free tax preparation and assistance throughout the website OCFreeTaxPrep.com.
Watch to Orange County United Way’s President & CEO, Susan B. Parks talking more about this program and OCFreeTaxPrep.com in the video below.
Ken: Welcome back. Well, today we’re going to be talking about taxes, not always the most fun subject, but in this case, Sue Parks is with us, with the United Way, and they are going to be having help for you if that’s what you would like. People that can help you do your taxes at no cost, and it’s done in conjunction with the United Way, and also AARP. It’s a really great service. So, welcome.
Sue Parks: Thanks, Ken. Glad to be here.
Ken: Tell me about when you’re going to be doing this and how long the program goes on.
Sue Parks: Okay. OC Free Tax Prep runs through April 15th. Here at Laguna Woods, we’re actually supporting with volunteers who are every Wednesday at Clubhouse 5 in the dining room from 9:00 to 3:00. That will go through March in terms of having people on site, but there are sites throughout the county as well.
Ken: As far as people doing this, I guess they’re going to ask, “Do I need an appointment. Do I just show up?” How does that work?
Sue Parks: They can certainly just show up in terms of what’s going on, but there’s a great site to find out all their questions and their answers. I’m not sure if that’s on the screen behind me?
Ken: Yeah. OCFreeTaxPrep.com.
Sue Parks: OCFreeTaxPrep.com. Exactly. That’ll share more, answer any questions, but will also show maybe Wednesdays aren’t a good day, but they want to get this done, and they want the help. It’ll show them other sites throughout the county as well.
Ken: Okay. Now what about … I think people who maybe want to do this, they’re going to ask, “Well, who are these people that are helping out? Are they accountants? Are they trained?” You know, obviously-
Sue Parks: Yeah. Like, is it just a stranger?
Ken: … you want to know that because they’re the ones that are guiding you through this process, right?
Sue Parks: Absolutely. Every year, Orange County United Way trains, with the IRS, over 500 volunteers. So, these are volunteers who have been trained. They’ve gone through a really, very strict training program, but they really are here to help people who need help with their taxes. We say that low and moderate income people here in Orange County as such a great service because it takes away the tax preparation fee, but also it links people who earn under 55,000 a year, may not know that there are earned income tax credit programs out there, and they may be able to get up to $6,000 back. And again, they can go on OCFreeTaxPrep.com. to learn more, but those volunteers are trained to help people. Just last year alone, we brought those $4.6 million dollars to people in Orange County who qualified. These are working people who have a W2 or are self-employed but earn under 55,000. That’s another amazing reason for your members here who might qualify for that to take a look at it.
Ken: Now, that’s 55,000 per individual, am I right? Or is it by a couple?
Sue Parks: That would be household.
Ken: Oh, household. Okay.
Sue Parks: Household income. Yes.
Ken: Okay. When they decide to do this, what should they bring? Just the kind of things you’d normally bring? Your W2, if you’ve given to any charities, and have deductions, and things like that?
Sue Parks: Yeah. If you just think of it as going to an accountant, and for people who haven’t done that before, again, I keep referring back to the website, but the website will tell them exactly what to bring.
Ken: That’s good, yeah.
Sue Parks: But definitely bring all of their identification, any receipts that they have questions on, certainly their W2s, or documentation if they’re self-employed.
Ken: Okay. Now, as far as, again, it’s a limited time here. It’s only Wednesdays. Am I right? If people want to set up a time, can they, or is it strictly first come?
Sue Parks: Again, in terms of checking out, I believe that it would be available for them to go on OCFreeTaxPrep.com. to see if there are specific appointments scheduled on Wednesday. Other than that, they could come, they could see the flow of folks, and I don’t think they would have a long wait.
Ken: Okay. And usually, I would think that a lot of the people who are in this bracket, it doesn’t take too long to do their taxes if
Sue Parks: Right. I think it’s just the-
Ken: … in general. Yeah.
Sue Parks: … help. The help. And again, I can’t emphasize enough that there are people who are missing out on that earned income tax credit program. I think that last year, or a couple of years ago, the government here thought when they looked at all the records of who would have qualified, 1.1 million people missed out on that earned income tax credit. There was something like $1.9 billion left on the table, so I strongly encourage anybody who maybe thinks, “Oh, my brother-in-law helps to do my taxes,” or, “Somebody else helps do my taxes,” may not know about that earned income tax credit, and what a wonderful way to find out.
Ken: Is that tax credit just deducted from your income? Is that how that works?
Sue Parks: Well, I know that they get a check back.
Sue Parks: Last year we brought back … The Orange County United Way in working with all of our partners, we brought back over, I think, $4.6 million to people here. We helped, and we want to help more.
Ken: Yeah. You don’t want to miss out on that.
Sue Parks: Yeah. We want to help more.
Ken: So again, the website, OCFreeTaxPrep.com. Obviously, you know what Sue is saying here is she encourages you to look at that first because that’s going to give you all the information that you need, what you need to bring with you, because there might be things that you don’t know about. You know, I’m looking at the list here. Obviously, people know W2s, but like 1098, and T-forms for educational expenses. A lot of people wouldn’t have thought to bring that.
Sue Parks: Right. Right.
Ken: So that’s really helpful.
Sue Parks: Yeah. Set yourself up so you can win and you can maximize the process there, right?
Sue Parks: Again, I know that we’re here at Laguna Woods. Just so you know, they did a survey, the government does a survey, and there’s a lot of people in ZIP Code 92637, which I believe is the Laguna Woods ZIP Code, that would qualify for the earned income tax credit, meaning they’re working. They get a W2, or they’re self-employed, and we want to make sure everyone here, everyone here gets the maximum benefit that they can.
Ken: Okay. That’s a good point that you just brought up. People here that are still working.
Sue Parks: Correct.
Ken: … People that are just retired, on Social Security, or a pension, or something like that. That’s different.
Sue Parks: If they still want help with their taxes, please come, but for the earned income tax credit, it’s based on your earnings. So again, two different ways to think about it. For people who come and would qualify for getting their free taxes, it would be 60,000 or under in terms of their income, and for somebody eligible for the earned income tax credit, it’d be under 55,000.
Ken: Okay. Very good. And again, that website is OCFreeTaxPrep.com. I encourage you to go there because you can get all your information. It starts, is this Wednesday?
Sue Parks: Yeah.
Sue Parks: It runs now through the end of March here. We at Orange County United Way are just happy to help. One of our major goals is helping people achieve financial stability, and this is a really important program that, again, we’re excited to have the opportunity to share.
Ken: All right. Thank you very much. I really appreciate it. Great to have you on, and again, once again, OCFreeTaxPrep.com. Go on their first, get your information, make sure you bring all your stuff with you. That’s the important thing.
Sue Parks: Great.
Ken: Thank you, Sue.
Sue Parks: Thank you, Ken.
Ken: Good to see you. We’ll be right back.
(End of Video)