What is “Earn It Keep It Save It” (EKS) and why is it important?
In concert with United Way of Southern Nevada’s Impact Area of Financial Stability, the “Earn It Keep It Save It” collaborative provides free tax preparation, helping families whose household income is less than $52,000 access the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and other federal tax credits. Through a general grant from the IRS and matched funding from local partners, in 2013-2014, United Way supported roughly 22 Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites across the Las Vegas Valley. VITA sites are staffed by IRS trained and certified volunteers who prepare tax returns at no cost to qualifying individuals and families. Families earning this credit use their refund for immediate needs, such as rent, food and bill assistance, yet many put their refund into savings for college, a house, or an emergency fund for the long term.
Why are the United Way “Earn It Keep It Save It” sites a better alternative than other “free” tax prep places?
The United Way, in partnership with the IRS and the “Earn It Keep It Save It” collaborative have been providing high quality free tax preparation services for 6 years now. During tax season, many predatory and “fly-by-night” places offering “free” tax preparation emerge, many of which lack the right credentials or operate with unethical practices, ultimately hurting the individual. We offer this service so that individuals and families have access to this benefit, and can build their savings and repay debts so that they can have a more financially stable future. We also want to protect our community from these predatory practices by offering a service that is IRS certified but also allows individuals and families who qualify to claim tax credits that can bolster their return.
How did “Earn It Keep It Save It” impact Southern Nevada in 2013-2014?
- 7,790 individuals and families received free tax preparation
- The program saved the community an estimated $1.365 million in preparation and filing fees
- $10.5 million in refunds was brought back to the community by hundreds of dedicated volunteers
- Hard-working, low-income families received $3.5 million in EITC
- Over $7.2 million was brought back in federal tax credits that provided low-income families, seniors and students with a financial boost they desperately needed.
What is the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)?
- The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is one of the nation’s most effective anti-poverty programs. An EITC refund helps pay the rent, buy groceries, cover utility bills and builds savings for future needs.
- The EITC is a financial boost for hard-working people, particularly those suffering in a recovering economy. However, many hard-hit families may not even know that this vital credit exists when, in fact, millions of workers will qualify for the EITC for the first time this year.
Nevadans have received an average EITC worth $2,280 for each taxpayer who claimed the credit. The EITC can be worth as much as $5,891 for a family with three children.
See the benefits of United Way’s service in action
Born in the town made famous by “Gone with the Wind,” Kayla is a Georgia girl who moved to Las Vegas last summer to complete her Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree at University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). As a busy student, writer and an aspiring Elvis impersonator, in her spare time Kayla likes to spend time with her English Bulldog named F.I.L.A. or “Forever In Love Atlanta.” Recently, Kayla had a great experience getting her taxes prepared at a United Way Free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance site.
Kayla described the process of getting her taxes prepared as easy. She didn’t have to wait in a line and in thirty minutes the process was completed.“I did a happy dance when I found out I would be receiving a $1,000 refund,” exclaimed Kayla. “I was overjoyed!”. According to Kayla everyone at the site was friendly, honest and courteous and she saved $40 in tax preparation fees. “I hate getting my taxes done and it was incredibly painless,” said Kayla. “It saved me having to stress out about it.”
Kayla was recently awarded a scholarship to study in Spain but lacked the resources to make the trip. Her tax return will help to fund her studies abroad and achieve her aspirations of becoming a creative writing professor.Currently, along with being an MFA student, she teaches first-year undergraduate students at UNLV. At first having a class of 25 young people was overwhelming.
“It took a little bit of time to remember that the best professors who were my mentors, were themselves in the classroom,” explained Kayla. “I teach students how incredible language is and what writing can do. It’s rewarding and exciting to see a class as a whole become critical thinkers who take advantage of the depth and beauty of writing.”
Individuals and families must have a household annual income of $52,000 or less to be eligible for United Way’s “Earn It Keep It Save It” free tax preparation program and can file for tax year 2013 or for years past.
When can I start thinking about filing for the 2014-2015 season?
- Please check back in December 2014 for more information on locations and times.
For more information about the free tax preparation program, please dial 2-1-1.