by Laura M. MacNeil, Executive Director
As the year ends, we find ourselves reflecting on how we helped others throughout the year. Some of us have purchased toys and clothing for families who struggle to make ends meet; it’s a one way for us to share what we have with others. Many people begin to think that they’d like to do more to help others; perhaps even make a resolution to be more engaged in a meaningful way in their community.
Might I suggest a really fun way to help others? A way to meet other, like-minded, generous people who also volunteer in their community? A way to spend a few hours doing meaningful work? Work that has an immediate impact on others? Might I suggest that you volunteer at NSCAP’s Tax Services program?
Let me guess… you are thinking, “No way! I don’t know a thing about taxes? I pay my accountant to do that. That’s too hard!” What would it take for me to convince you that it really isn’t that difficult to prepare tax returns for low-wage workers? What could persuade you?
What if I told you that it really isn’t that difficult? Really and truly. It isn’t. We provide IRS-certified training to all our volunteers. We don’t just send you out into the wild. We teach you how to prepare a tax return. There is an on-site Coordinator who is well-trained and understands tax law who is able to answer your questions. Every single return is reviewed by a qualified reviewer to make sure there aren’t any mistakes.
What if I told you that there are many ways to volunteer? We need volunteers to greet the clients, to provide clerical support, to prepare and review returns. The hours and locations are flexible. The program starts at the end of January and runs until the middle of April. You can volunteer in the afternoon, evening and weekends. We have locations in Peabody, Beverly and Salem.
What if I told you that you would be participating in one of the most successful anti-poverty programs in the area? Many people are familiar with the tax program where volunteers help elderly people file their tax returns. This program is similar but it is targeted to low-income workers who may be eligible for the Earn Income Tax Credit. EITC is a refundable tax credit. That means that EITC can reduce the federal tax to zero and any unused credit is refunded. But, workers must file a tax return to get the credit even if their income is below the filing requirement. To qualify, workers must have taxable income from working for someone or from running a business or farm.
Not enough? What if I told you that volunteers who at first thought they couldn’t do this come back every year to prepare returns because it is so rewarding? People who struggle to make ends meet come in to get help with their tax returns. We make sure to apply for every possible credit they qualify for: Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Care Tax Credit, Educational Credits, etc. There is nothing like seeing the surprised joy on single mother’s face when she finds out that through our help she is going to get a refund of $3,000 or even more.
I can speak from personal experience that this is a fun and rewarding volunteer opportunity. This will be the eighth year that I will volunteer. Of course it takes time out of my busy weekends and there are mornings when I question why I go, but by the end of the morning I am flying high. I have met families who come back every year. Eight years ago, their children were in school. Now their children come in to have their tax returns done. We celebrate when the children tell us that they were accepted to college — the first generation in the family to go to college. We fuss over new babies who were born. It is so much more than preparing a tax return.
Are you convinced? I hope so. Give us a call at 978-531-0767 x222 and leave a message for the Site Coordinator to let her know that you want to volunteer. You won’t regret it.