United Way offers free virtual tax help

People can get help with tax preparation virtually and for free through United Way of the Bluegrass this year.

Boyle County Public Library typically hosts free help with tax preparation in person, but tax prep this year looks different due to COVID-19, said BCPL public services librarian Caleb Conover. The library is currently unable to host in-person free tax prep help from United Way, but it’s been working with United Way VITA, or Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, hoping to set up a virtual connection for tax help volunteers to connect with individuals at the library.

Conover said the library is uncertain how that will look because “the ice storms recently have really put a dent in that, because we were trying to finalize things this week, actually,” but there are still ways people can get tax help through United Way.

United Way of the Bluegrass, based in Lexington, launched software this year to help people with their tax returns through virtual appointments. Individuals in Boyle County can use this resource, and Conover said when the library is open, people are welcome to use library computers to access the website and upload the required documents.

“If folks need to get on the computer to access the website or send or upload documents — we’ve got scanning capability and photocopy capability, printing — there is a charge for printing and photocopying, but otherwise scanning is at no charge,” he said. “Computer access is at no charge, and then we’ve also got Wi-Fi access both in the building and outside the building 24/7.”

Conover said library staff can’t answer tax questions, but they can help print forms for people if they need them, and they do have limited copies of form 1040 and instructions in the lobby area across from the circulation desk, he said.

Site coordinator for BCPL and local coordinator for the VITA program Clifton Ross said people can call 2-1-1 or visit uwbg.org/ckeep to schedule a virtual appointment for tax prep.

An individual has the following options through United Way of the Bluegrass: TaxSlayer FSA is offered by request, is self-facilitated and has no income limitation, and people ready to file or wanting to learn more can email ckeep@uwbg.org for a link for the software. If an individual made under $66,000 in 2020, they qualify for free tax prep using MyFreeTaxes.com. Then there’s CKEEP, which is free tax prep by a trained volunteer available to individuals who earned less than $56,000 in 2020 through appointment.

Currently, there are only about four appointment spots per week, on Saturdays, which Ross said he hopes will expand.

Once someone makes an appointment, a tax prep volunteer will send them an email or link so they can upload their necessary documents, which can be as simple as scanning or taking photos of the documents with their phone and uploading them. The documents go through Ross, who transmits them securely to the preparer right before the scheduled appointment. From there, the preparer will establish contact with the individual either before or after they’ve started preparing the return. After it’s prepared, it goes through a quality review process, so it’s sent to another preparer, usually to Ross, to make sure there aren’t any mistakes, and then it’s sent to the IRS.

Ross said he hopes the library will become more involved in the process in the near future.

“We love working with the library,” he said. “They have been great to work with over the years. I’ve been with the program for — this is my 11th year — and of the locations we’ve prepared taxes at, the library is by far the best location. They’re just great to work with all around.”