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United Way to offer tax help to low-income residents

United Way of King County is offering free tax preparation at 17 sites throughout King County, including two in Bellevue. The program is designed to help low- and middle-income families increase their financial security.

The Bellevue sites are at Hopelink and Goodwill.

At the sites, United Way will prepare income tax returns with an eye to take full advantage of all the possible credits available, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

“United Way of King County started the Free Tax Preparation Campaign because we know that when people are able to establish savings, it creates a cushion that stabilizes their lives and can help them from falling into crisis,” said United Way of King County President and CEO Jon Fine. “Many people are still struggling and this program provides an opportunity to help low income families save money and take advantage of other benefits they may not be aware they are eligible to receive.”

In addition to preparing federal tax returns, United Way is offering other services at the sites, such as applications for public benefits like food stamps and utility assistance, assistance with FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form completion and providing free credit reports.

United Way Tax Preparation is free for anyone making under $51,000 and will run through April 15. Services will be provided in multiple languages, including Cambodian, Vietnamese, Spanish, Somali, Amharic, Korean, Chinese, Tigrinya, and Russian by more than 650 IRS certified volunteers.

The Earned Income Tax Credit is a federal tax program that reduces the amount of income tax owed by low to moderate income workers. It is considered the largest anti-poverty tool in the US. In 2010, the EITC lifted about 6.3 million people out of poverty, including about $3.3 million children.

Last year, United Way’s Free Tax Prep Campaign filed 14,400 returns and brought back $20.7 million in refunds to the community; $7 million of which came from the Earned Income Tax Credit. On average, taxpayers got back $1,400 in refunds.

Taxpayers must bring photo identification and Social Security Cards (or Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers) for themselves, spouses and dependents. They should also bring wage and earnings statements (Forms W-2), interest and dividend information concerning their income and expenses for the year of 2011.

The sites and services at Hopelink are:

Tuesdays, 1-5 p.m. in English, Chinese and Hindi.

Tuesdays, 5-9 p.m. (until Feb. 28) in English and Chinese.

Thursday, 1-9 p.m. in English, Chinese, Hindi and Japanese.

Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in English and Chinese.

Hopelink is located at 4812 Main St.

The service at Goodwill is:

Tuesdays and Thursday, 5-9 p.m.

Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Goodwill is located at 14515 NE 20th St.

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