Filing a federal income tax return is far from the most enjoyable activity one can do. It can even be intimidating for people who don't understand the process or know they are eligible for an Earned Income Tax Credit
Enterprise Community Partners
, a nonprofit providing free tax preparation and other services to low- and middle-income Cuyahoga County residents, aims to bridge the knowledge gap and help hard-working individuals and families keep more of what they earned. Nationwide last year, the average credit handed out was about $2,200, but the credit can provide as much as $5,900.
"About 20 percent of people eligible for [EITC] don't claim it," says Mark McDermott, Enterprise vice president and Ohio market leader. "We get the word out."
That word is spread in conjunction with the Cuyahoga County Earned Income Tax Credit Coalition
and a host of other local partner organizations. This tax season, Enterprise has recruited over 350 IRS-certified volunteers to assist in the effort.
Eligible residents can access the free service by dialing the United Way of Greater Cleveland's
2-1-1 help line. Appointments are scheduled at one of 25 sites located throughout the country. There are also a handful of Saturday free tax-preparation events taking place right up until filing day.
During the past seven years, more than 55,000 participants have received over $77 million in refunds and saved millions of dollars in fees from paid tax preparers, notes program director Kathy Matthews.
"That's about $13 million going back into the local economy," says Matthews.
Tax help isn't Enterprise's only offering. Those who use the service also have access to benefit screenings, debt management and more.
"The tax work is our foundation," says McDermott. "This has proven to be a great program."
SOURCES: Mark McDermott, Kathy Matthews
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth