Meredith Webber, News Writer
Most people dread tax day, but this is not the case for some low-income families in America. For families served at a SaveFirst Tax Site, the refund check might be the biggest check the family receives all year. This money could enable families to buy new clothes for their children or other necessary resources.
Elizabeth Autry, a freshman human and family science major, spent two months volunteering with the SaveFirst Tax Initiative as a tax preparer. Autry saw that many of the families she was serving relied on the yearly refund to make ends meet.
“The people I was serving specifically were bringing in two or three W-2s on average. They are working every hour they can get and still barely making it,” Autry said.
The SaveFirst Tax Initiative trains college students and other volunteers to prepare taxes for low-income families so they maximize benefits from the Earned Income Tax Credit, the federal government’s largest anti-poverty program. Many who qualify for this program are taken advantage of by expensive commercial tax preparers and lose millions of dollars that they qualify for.
Families using SaveFirst saved $4.2 million last year according to Impact America, which is the organization that runs the program.
“I expected the process to be a little more mechanical—be handed paperwork, meet the people a little bit, do the taxes and be done,” said Autry. “In some ways it was like that, but in reality it was a more getting to learn their stories, interact with them, hearing their joys but also the things that are hard for them. The things that I struggle with as a college student versus an adult living below the poverty line are two very different worlds.”
Students from Samford volunteered 380 hours and Cumberland Law students volunteered 75 total hours with SaveFirst this tax season.