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Community nonprofit offers free tax help, seeking out tax preparer volunteers

Step Forward is offering free tax assistance for those earning $60,000 or less a year.
Posted at 6:52 AM, Feb 15, 2023

CLEVELAND — Tax season is officially underway. As you begin searching for your returns and paperwork, a local nonprofit is working to ease the stress and help you navigate the process.

Step Forward is offering free tax assistance for those earning $60,000 or less a year.

The community agency is also actively looking to recruit and train potential tax preparer volunteers to help meet the demand.

Convenience and saving money are critical for busy Cleveland mom Yvette Applewhite.

"More convenient — so that I wouldn't have to pay someone to do it," Applewhite said.

With paperwork in hand, she came to Step Forward's main office downtown to get her taxes done.

She says many people — including herself — had no idea the free one-on-one tax prep was ever an option.

"Didn't take that long. It's an easy process. A phone call. You just set up an appointment and come in and drop your information off," Applewhite said.

Travena Golliday, Step Forward's Director of Neighborhood Opportunity Centers, says they hope to double last year's turnout and serve at least 400 people this season.

In the meantime—the IRS is alerting folks to be prepared for smaller refunds since a lot of the COVID-19-related tax perks no longer exist.

Stimulus checks are a thing of the past and that large Child Tax Credit from 2021 is also less.

The Child Tax Credit is now $2,000 per child, under the age of 17, claimed as a dependent.

Golliday says they can assist with whatever questions you may have.

"If they did not file for Child Tax Credit last year, they can apply for it again this year. The same with earned Income Tax Credit, if they didn't apply last year, they can apply this year," Golliday said.

The changes have admittedly brought about some confusion from residents, but she says the staff is ready and aware.

"That's why it's important that they really link up with one of our tax workers and see what they qualify for because we wanna see if they're eligible for Earned Income Tax Credit," Golliday said.

Applewhite says the process has been stress-free and she hopes more people in the area take advantage of it.

"It's a blessing to have extra money coming in," Applewhite said.

April 18 is the deadline to file taxes.

If you want to book an appointment with Step Forward or volunteer, click here.

You can also dial 211 OR go to the Cuyahoga EITC Coalition website for additional help.

Tax experts say it's also important to note that if you win more than 600 dollars from sports betting, the company is required to send you a form and you must claim it.

If not, you will get penalized and face fines.