On the face of it, the free tax preparation centers operated by United Way and its partners provide a way for low-income working families to have a little more money in their pockets by obtaining tax credit refunds and avoiding tax preparation fees. Viewed another way, though, you could say the centers are all about second chances.
Take the situation of one single mother who had two children. She had lost her job not long before coming to one of the United Way tax preparation centers. At the center she saved herself hundreds of dollars by having her tax return prepared for free by volunteers. But the big news of the day was that she qualified for both an Earned Income Tax Credit and a Child Tax Credit. That meant her refund was a little over $5,000; a considerable sum for someone who no longer had a job.
The mother said she was going to use her refund to catch up on some bills and pay two months of rent while she looked for a full-time job as a Licensed Vocational Nurse. The United Way tax center had helped her bridge a frightening financial gap; giving her a second chance to resume a more financially stable life.
Or consider the man whose life had taken a wrong turn in another way. By the time he came to the United Way tax center, he had paid his debt to society and landed a job. He was committed to changing his life and was making financial restitution. With his tax refund, he was able to make the final payment and have a few dollars left over. He was ready for his second chance.
Sometimes the tax preparation centers provide not second chances, but first chances. Volunteers at one center helped a grandmother use part of her tax refund to buy a $100 savings bond for her grandchild’s future. Her daughter wanted to do the same, but did not have enough of a refund. The grandmother then increased her bond to $200, saying she was going to “take care of my grandbaby no matter what.”
Some dreams involve second chances. Some involve first chances. Through the tax preparation centers, United Way helps both come true.