For nine years, a free tax-preparation program has been offered in Hancock County that has saved low- and middle-income families the expense of filing their federal income taxes and increased their returns.
It has also paid big dividends to the community as well.
During this tax season alone, the service, offered through the United Way of Hancock County and various other agencies, saved residents $391,827 in filing fees and allowed filers to receive $2.1 million in federal income tax refunds through their returns.
The benefit of the program extends even farther, though, considering many of those dollars will end up being spent on goods and services in Hancock County.
This year the United Way partnered with 50 North, the Findlay-Hancock County Public Library, Millstream Career Center, Ohio Benefit Bank, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and the Hancock Hardin Wyandot Putnam Community Action Commission to offer the tax services for individuals who made up to $65,000 and families who made up to $95,000 in 2016. Appointments were available on various dates at locations throughout the community, and the tax returns were filed electronically by trained tax counselors and VITA volunteers.
In all, volunteers put in more than 1,400 hours by filing 1,857 federal tax returns for county residents.
Filing fee savings alone were substantial, considering local fees for tax preparation average $149 for a simple return, and the national average is $273. Put those averages together and you get a savings of about $211 per tax return filing.
One of the goals of the free tax-preparation program is to make sure all eligible tax filers take advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit. The effort was launched in 2008, after it was determined many eligible for the EITC do not claim it. When EITC funds go unclaimed, it means that communities miss out on millions of dollars that would have otherwise generated economic activity and growth.
The results showed again this year that the tax service remains a great value for all who can use it. Kudos to the United Way and all the other supporters which make it possible.
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