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Volunteers offering free tax help

Troy University and Impact America are teaming up for the next few months to help low-income families prepare their taxes for free.

Elizabeth Shackney said the program, “Save First,” is offered by AmeriCorps and Troy University student volunteers have been trained to assist.

“The tax preparation services are aimed at helping families eligible for the earned income tax credit, one of the most successful low-income protections,” Shackney said. “We exist to make sure that people that are eligible for that credit are able to claim that full credit and not pay a tax preparation fee.”

The services will be offered Thursdays through Saturdays at the Troy University IDEA Bank downtown at 63 S. Court Square.

Families with children making a salary of $54,000 or less or families with no children making $20,000 or less are eligible for the services.

“We have a great track record,” Shackney said. “Last year we helped more than 9,000 families and we’re aiming for 590 students trained over all campuses. It’s a really cool operation.”

Shackney said these services are important to families in need. “These families and individuals are working really hard and we see that firsthand,” Shackney said. “Sometimes people pay up to $400 to prepare taxes, so this can make a huge difference in people’s financial lives. They can put that money toward healthcare costs or other unexpected costs. We have saved $3.6 million in fees for families we worked with and helped them secure more than $15.6 million in tax refunds.”

The program is also good for the university’s accounting students, Shackney said, who make up the majority of volunteers.

“It’s a valuable way to better understand individual finances,” Shackney said. “These are all IRS-certified Troy University students. Most of them are also accounting students. I think the goal there is to get college students involved in communities, especially students going into accounting, to have volunteer experience and understand the financial situations of people in the community.

It’s a great service to students, teaching them what it means to be a public citizen and give back.

We’re so lucky to have such an enthusiastic force of students ready to take part.”

Shackney encourages people to call ahead and make an appointment to save time, although walk-ins are accepted. The number to make an appointment is 1-888-99-TAXAL.

The preparation services are offered Thursdays from noon to 8 p.m., Friday from noon to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.