“Heaven sent” help from United Way’s Earned Income Tax Credit Alliance and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance workers gave local residents extra help last month

This was the first year that Memphis resident Melba Jennings decided to do her taxes on her own. After working through several documents, she was amazed to see that her taxes needed amending.

“At the time, I did not know United Way was involved in this free tax help service,” Jennings said.

“I went to the IRS first, and they told me about United Way’s work with free tax filing sites. I followed up by calling the 2-1-1 help line and they told me their was a free tax service center at the Cossitt Library.”

United Way and the Earned Income Tax Credit Alliance (EITCA) and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) provided free tax preparation and filing help at locations across the Mid-South earlier this year. The service also provided some work sites for filing opportunties last month for people needing additional help.

Jennings met with Jeraldine Hunter, a volunteer EITCA Mobile Site Coordinator and IRS-enrolled agent, who helped with getting her amended taxes prepared.

“What touched me so much were her spirit and willingness to not give up and her professionalism. It overwhelmed me,” Jenning said.

“There was a lot of overflow at the IRS. United Way saw the need and said ‘okay, let’s go ahead and do the extended tax service’ and set up two volunteers to provide additional assistance. The first two weeks we were at different library locations,” said Hunter.

“There was a great demand for this service, and we had a lot of people coming with issues referred to us from IRS. When some people came to us, they did not have all their information to complete the returns and they had to go back to the IRS. In August we were right across the street from the Internal Revenue Service. If they had to go back to the IRS, it was within easy walking distance,” Hunter explained.

Jennings said that she was also surprised at the number of people who were with her at the library when she was receiving help.

“The gentleman before me had to get his taxes done and he was filing for five or six years prior,” Jennings said. “I observed the tax service and the coordinator was making it a comfortable experience for him.”

“Jeraldine really enjoys what she does,” Jennings said. “You don’t meet a lot of people like that nowadays, especially if you are getting a free service. This was my first experience. It was a very good one.”

Jennings mentioned she had learned about other tax services where people have to pay anywhere from $200 to $300 for help with filing. She said it can be hard for folks to pay that fee in addition to paying money that is owed for their taxes.

“It is heaven sent,” she added. “I wanted to thank United Way for that. To know that I could still get my taxes completed was a blessing. Just to see other people get help with the tax services they needed was also a blessing to me.”

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