Local nonprofit offering free virtual tax prep service for Mid-Southerners

Nonprofit Impact America's Memphis-based affiliate is offering free virtual tax preparation services for anyone in Memphis or elsewhere in Tennessee. [Update: The Memphis office can now help with returns for Mid-Southerns in Mississippi and Arkansas.]

For families and individuals with annual incomes less than $60,000, an IRS-certified preparer will prepare and file taxes in a virtual H&R Block-type experience. For those earning more than $60,000 a year, IRS-certified preparers will still answer questions and assist with self-filing.

They set the income break at $60,000 because one of SaveFirst’s primary goals is to ensure those eligible for any earned income tax credit receive the full amount to which they are entitled.

Click here for more information or to start the process.

Federal and most state tax filing deadlines have been moved to July 15, but Impact America's Memphis Regional Direction Hunter Keane says the need for timely tax preparation services has grown. [Update: Mississippi's filing deadline is May 15.]

COVID-19 stimulus checks are contingent on having filed 2019 or 2018 taxes, and there are fewer tax prep providers to help, especially for those who can’t afford to pay a preparer. The Memphis Public Libraries, for example, offers free in-person tax prep services for seniors but all branches are currently closed.

“COVID-19 has taken a large toll on many aspects of our economy, and these stimulus payments could make huge differences in the lives of those being affected more directly by changes in the economy,” said Keane.

He said there’s also a big need for safe, high-quality tax prep services in Memphis because of the high numbers of people with limited incomes and resources to file and the high number of predatory and fraudulent preparers who target them.

Impact America works with recent college graduates to address a variety of community needs and is funded by a combination of federal, state, foundation, and corporate grants. Its tax preparers consist of both staff members and AmeriCorps service members.

“Since we are a nonprofit organization and our services are entirely free, people often recognize that our tax preparers genuinely want to assist them in attaining their maximum refund and are not simply doing this to earn a paycheck for themselves,” said Keane.

Impact America’s tax prep services are part of its SaveFirst initiative.

Keane said last year, SaveFirst prepared over 2,250 Memphis-area tax returns and secured a combined refund of over $3.4 million for its clients. He said they are very fortunate to have strong community partners who help them reach clients and get big results. Their local partners include JUICE Orange Mound, Rhodes College, the University of Memphis, and the Binghampton Development Corporation.

SaveFirst’s in-person tax prep is suspended so they developed SaveFirst Online in partnership with Code for America and ASK.

But is the service safe? Keane said absolutely.

All data is processed digitally on company computers. Nothing is stored on the computer or accessible on a personal computer. All volunteers are IRS-certified. Site coordinators have undergone over one hundred hours of tax training and earned advanced-level certifications.

Impact America also runs FocusFirst, which provides high-quality vision screening aimed at identifying children with vision issues and minimizing barriers to accessible care. They screen around 20,000 children across Tennessee yearly and make referrals to Sight Savers America.

“Through our different initiatives, we have been able to interact with varying Memphis communities. Each of these interactions has strengthened our mission here in Memphis and bolstered our place in this city,” said Keane.

“We are dedicated to ensuring that those we continue to serve receive a level of service that is superior in quality and as authentically Memphis as they are.”

Read more articles by Cole Bradley.

Cole Bradley is a native Memphian and graduate of the University of Memphis. Cole's worked locally as a researcher and community engagement strategist and began contributing to High Ground in Jan 2017.