Greater Portland is My United Way
“It is a nice way nice way to put extra money in their pockets.”
After retiring and moving back to Portland, Rich Moran wanted to get involved. He had always been interested in the tax process, so when he came across an opportunity to help people with their taxes, he jumped.
“The CA$H Maine tax preparer volunteer opportunity presented itself. It looked interesting, so I tried it, and I’ve been doing it ever since,” says Rich. “It is a great way to volunteer and give back. The people who receive these services are greatly appreciative and that makes me feel good.”
CA$H Greater Portland (Creating Assets, Savings and Hope), an initiative at United Way of Greater Portland, is one of ten statewide coalitions that encompass 50 non- and for-profit partners all working together to help low- and moderate-income Mainers make the most of their money.
“When we started in 2004, there were maybe five or six of us preparing taxes in the Greater Portland area. Now we may have upwards of 20 preparers working on taxes. My hope is that the CA$H program continues to expand and grow.”
Rich has a knack for figures that he attributes to genetics.
“My father has done income tax returns as a side business for 50 years. He is 93 years old and still does taxes manually, not on a computer. Most of the returns he does are relatively straightforward, but it is still amazing to me that he is doing it at his age.”
Not all people are as comfortable with taxes as the Moran clan.
“For many people, taxes are a very intimidating process. We have found situations where people have gone to commercial tax preparers and ended up paying a significant sum of for what is a relatively straightforward tax return.”
And many low income Mainers are unaware of a federal tax credit that can substantially impact their bottom line. It is estimated that $30 million dollars in federal Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) is unclaimed every year in Maine alone.
“One of the primary advantages that we offer is access to the EITC, Earned Income Tax Credit, which many people either don’t know about or don’t realize they are eligible for. Essentially, it reduces the amount of tax you owe and may also give you a refund.”
Last year, CA$H Maine helped more than 4,610 Maine residents save $806,750 in filing fees and claim $2.4 million in Earned Income Tax Credits (qualified families can receive up to $6,044). CA$H Maine also helped Mainers recoup $6.9 million in federal income tax refunds.
“We go out of our way to make sure that people understand the EITC and find other deductions or itemizations that they may have overlooked. It is a nice way to put extra money in their pocket that they weren’t counting on – which also helps put money back in the economy.”
In addition to providing free tax return preparation, there is a significant amount of financial education that goes on at CA$H sites.
“There are coaches at each site who provide information on savings accounts and other money saving resources, guidance on what to do with refunds, and information about funding higher education. They provide a valuable service by increasing the financial literacy of taxpayers.”
Rich pauses and reflects, “I think the financial learning process that is part of this is probably more valuable than the tax return itself.”