Chicago to Nearly Double Number of Free Tax Preparation Assistance Locations
Larissa M. Tyler | 2/11/2016, 5:02 p.m.
Here’s some good news for Chicago residents who are in need of tax preparation assistance. The City of Chicago is expanding its Tax Prep Chicago program. The 16th annual citywide free tax preparation assistance program will double the number of free tax preparation assistance sites from 21 to 36 sites.
Last year, Tax Prep Chicago helped nearly 21,000 families and individuals receive over $34 million in tax refunds and credits. Now with 15 additional sites to service residents, those numbers are sure to increase.
“I have had my taxes prepared by the city’s program for the last three years,” said Chatham area resident Tanya Echols. “And it has been such a life saver and so much easier than going to a for-profit tax preparer. It just feels more comfortable when you know the city is working things out for you especially when it comes to something as important as taxes. I hope they never end this program.”
It has been estimated that each year nearly approximately 100,000—or 25 percent of eligible families in Chicago—do not take advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), leaving over $230 million in unclaimed refunds. These additional sites will help to ensure that taxpayers in Chicago have access to the information and resources they need to take advantage of these critical funds, which have been known to keep numerous families and individuals from falling into poverty.
“The EITC is the single most important tool we have to encourage work and reduce poverty in our country; however, far too many families either don’t know that they are eligible or need help applying for it,” said Mayor Emanuel.
Families earning up to $50,000 or individuals earning up to $25,000 are eligible to take advantage of the City’s free and confidential income tax assistance at 36 locations across Chicago. To ensure more Chicagoans have access to assistance, Treasurer Summers has fostered a relationship with AARP Foundation Tax-Aide, providing seniors with dedicated locations for any help they may need on their taxes.
“This expanded program has the potential to save Chicagoans millions of dollars, leading to greater investment in our neighborhoods and in our local economy,” said Treasurer Summers. “Chicago’s seniors shouldn’t have to worry about the uncertainty that comes along with tax preparation. AARP Foundation Tax-Aide specializes in helping people and we are proud of this new partnership that will give many Chicagoans financial peace of mind without emptying their pocketbooks.”
Volunteer tax preparers, certified through an IRS-approved training program, assist residents with federal and state income tax returns for the 2015 tax year and in many cases, assistance with prior-year returns and amendments is available. Sites are open to residents who need assistance between late January and mid-April 2016.
"For nearly 50 years, AARP Foundation Tax-Aide has provided free tax assistance to millions of low- and moderate-income taxpayers,” said AARP Illinois State Director Bob Gallo. “Our hard working IRS-certified volunteers offer an easy-to-use tax service for those Chicagoans who need it the most."
This year, eligible individuals and families with children could receive up to $6,866 from the federal and state Earned Income Tax Credits alone, not including other valuable credits. But many eligible Chicagoans may not claim all the income tax credits they deserve without the help of knowledgeable preparers.