Just Harvest ‘Taxathon’ helps residents file taxes

JALAINE GETHERS, left, of the East End, was one of many local residents whose taxes were done at the Just Harvest Taxathon, Feb. 10, on the South Side. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

Locations still open for free tax preparation

In the 300 block of East Carson St. on the South Side, you can tell it’s tax season—that’s because people with slightly lost expressions and vague Google Maps directions are looking for Just Harvest.
For 16 years now, the anti-hunger and poverty agency has provided free tax preparation services for the area’s low-income residents, and saving people thousands of dollars via the Earned Income Tax Credit and child credits they did not know they qualified for.
With this year’s peak tax season approaching, the agency tried something a little different—its first ever Taxathon, a 12-hour open window on Feb. 10 where anyone could come in to get their taxes done.
“I saved at least $1,000 coming here,” said Koren Walker, of the South Side. “They are very understanding, here. They work well with us, and I like them.”
Tax Campaign Coordinator Kristie Weiland Stagno said the event was more successful than they anticipated. “We were very pleased with the turnout. Our goal was to complete 125 returns and we completed 143,” she said. “We were also able to connect the taxpayers to some of our partner organizations such as Consumer Health Coalition and Fund My Future.”
Getting substantial refunds is a great opportunity for people to start savings accounts, she said. So in addition to Fund My Future, representatives from Northside Commons Ministries Financial Opportunity Center were also on hand to discuss setting up rainy-day funds and children’s educational savings accounts.
Ananda Miles, from Homestead, said Just Harvest really looks after low-income residents. “If I used TurboTax it would have cost me at least $90. This is convenient, it’s free and they refer you to other programs like SNAP, so you can get multiple things done at one time,” she said. “It’s very convenient for families that don’t make enough money, and can’t afford H&R Block or TurboTax, very good for low-income families.”
Jalaine Gethers, from the East End, said another tax preparer would have charged her $300.
“So yeah, I’m saving a lot, a whole lot,” she said. “I love this. I think it’s great.”
Just Harvest offers free tax preparation services to households with a 2017 income of less than $45,000 ($25,000 for a single filer). Individuals will get free help determining their Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) eligibility and claiming the credits.
Every year, millions of workers—1 in 5 of those eligible, according to IRS estimates—overlook these important federal tax credits because they simply don’t know about them or that they qualify. The EITC and the CTC make a real difference for low-income workers who are struggling to make ends meet.
Qualifying families can make appointments for free tax services at four locations: 16 Terminal Way on the South Side, CCAC Boyce Campus in Monroeville, Bedford Hope Center in the Hill District, and Prospect Park Family Center in Baldwin. Appointments are available by calling 2-1-1 or online at pa211sw.org.
 
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