Image: Milwaukee's Social Development Commission provides free tax preparation services, supported in part by United Way.
February 18, 2020
At United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County, financial stability is a core focus of our funding and volunteer efforts. That’s why we make grants each year to fund free tax preparation services at the Social Development Commission (SDC) in Milwaukee (seen in these pictures) and La Casa de Esperanza in Waukesha.
A major focus of these free tax preparation services is ensuring eligible families receive the appropriate tax credits. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), aimed at working households with low- to moderate income, is proven to have lifelong health, education and income benefits for children in households that receive it. However, data shows that one in five eligible households miss out on this benefit each year.
Image: A customer gets support completing her taxes at Social Development Commission in 2021.
Combined, the EITC and the Child Tax Credit lift 8.9 million Americans out of poverty each year, which is why in 2018 United Way’s Financial Empowerment for Women Fund, backed by the Women United Leadership Council, prioritized access to free tax services and other programs that promote financial stability for female heads of household.
Milwaukee's Social Development Commission has been a great partner in this initiative, as they connect all kinds of people to financial education and free services, including the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program or VITA, which provides IRS-certified tax preparation for households under a modest income threshold at no cost.
Image: Dana helps a client with their taxes over the phone at SDC.
In 2019, SDC ensured over $7 million dollars made their way back into the community, including $2.5 million in Earned Income Tax Credits and saving taxpayers $1.1 million in tax preparation fees.
In 2020, services were disrupted in March but resumed with safer methods thanks to the IRS' extended tax filing deadline of July 15. SDC was able to prepare more than 4,400 federal returns, and over 1,000 Wisconsin Homestead Credit filings. That amounted to $8 million dollars in refunds, $2.5 million in Earned Income Tax Credits, and saving close to $1 million in free tax services.
Image: Guests are welcomed to SDC's VITA site with additional information about their services.
In the 2021 tax filing year, United Way once again made a grant to SDC to support VITA services using a drop-off model, in which taxpayers make an appointment to have their documents scanned at an SDC site, then are free to leave while VITA volunteers prepare their return until the client is called back at a later date to return and finalize their filing.
Click here to learn more about United Way’s work in financial stability and how you can get involved.