MORRISTOWN, N.J. – When Mukesh Dang read about a need for volunteer tax preparers, he thought it would be a good fit for the kind of community service he and his wife were looking to do. His wife, Anju, however, initially hesitated. Although the Somerset couple are both working professionals, they don’t have an accounting background.
“We get our accountant to do our taxes,” Anju Dang said. “We’ve never done taxes before.”
But during an orientation, the couple learned accounting experience wasn’t needed. A free training course would be offered, and they would work with a team once they were at a tax site. They started volunteering earlier this year and haven’t looked back since.
“We feel we are absolutely making a difference in a number of people’s lives,” Mukesh said. “It feels good helping real people with financial issues, getting them the right tax returns.”
The Dangs are among the nearly 200 volunteers who helped United Way of Northern New Jersey and its partners—NORWESCAP RSVP, Greater Providence Missionary Baptist Church and the IRS—file 6,000 returns for free during the last tax season. This collaboration brought back $6.6 million in refunds to struggling families and saved them $1.5 million in tax preparation costs.
United Way has launched the recruitment campaign for volunteer tax preparers in order to have trained volunteers across its five-county footprint of Morris, Suburban Essex, Somerset, Sussex and Warren counties.
Like the Dangs, area residents can make a difference by signing up as volunteer tax preparers for the upcoming tax season. Volunteers help ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) and poverty-level households throughout the northern New Jersey region avoid the high cost of preparation fees.
“Becoming a volunteer tax preparer is a tangible way to make a difference in the lives of those struggling to afford the basics,” said United Way of Northern New Jersey CEO John Franklin. “By helping ALICE avoid high preparation fees and receive tax credits for which they are eligible, much-needed funds are put back into their wallets and the local economy.”
To become an IRS-certified tax prep volunteer, individuals are required to take a free training course that is offered both by United Way and through online resources.
“If you don’t have the background or experience, don’t shy away from trying it because it’s less complicated than you think it is,” Mukesh said. “The software is easy to use and there is a good team behind you to support you.”
And, the experience is worth it. Each time the Dangs finish volunteering, they leave the tax site feeling inspired. “It’s a rewarding experience,” Anju said.
Pullout Box: Tax Returns by County
Across its five-county footprint last tax season, United Way and its partners filed more than 6,000 tax returns, including 259 through MyFreeTaxes.com. The following is a breakdown by county:
- Morris County: 2,227 returns, $536,036 in Earned Income Tax Credits, $306,176 in Child Tax Credits, and $2,596,542 in refunds.
- *Suburban Essex: 882 returns, $ 239,224 in Earned Income Tax Credits, $170,635 in Child Tax Credits, and $1,023,835 in refunds.
- Somerset County: 1,479 returns, $514,868 in Earned Income Tax Credits, $368,082 in Child Tax Credits, and $1,739,133 in refunds.
- Sussex County: 488 returns, $123,345 in Earned Income Tax Credits, $46,668 in Child Tax Credits and $476,901 in refunds.
- Warren County: 715 returns, $197,094 in Earned Income Tax Credits, $75,900 in Child Tax Credit and $781,470 in refunds.
*Suburban Essex County towns served by United Way of Northern New Jersey include the Caldwells, Cedar Grove, Essex Fells, Fairfield, Glen Ridge, Livingston, Millburn-Short Hills, Montclair, Roseland, and Verona.
About United Way of Northern New Jersey
United Way of Northern New Jersey is a nonprofit organization fighting to improve life for families and individuals in our five-county footprint who are ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) or in poverty. We believe when those who are struggling to afford the basics can succeed, all communities win. By focusing on Education, Financial Stability, and Health, we are helping ALICE now and in the long term. We do this through our initiatives that fill gaps in services, community partnerships, public policy work, and volunteer efforts. United Way of Northern New Jersey serves Morris, Somerset, Sussex, and Warren counties as well as portions of suburban Essex County including the Caldwells, Cedar Grove, Essex Fells, Fairfield, Glen Ridge, Livingston, Millburn-Short Hills, Montclair, Roseland, and Verona. To learn more, call 973.993.1160 or visit www.UnitedWayNNJ.org.