Alabama organization offers free tax filing, volunteer opportunities

CW File

TJ Kory

As April 17 draws near, UA students have begun to do their taxes. For the majority of the University, this poses more of a chore; out-of-state students must gather paperwork from home addresses, juggle returns from multiple states and calculate what they owe. 

A recent Gallup poll placed the Internal Revenue Service as one of the most unpopular federal agencies, with only 45 percent of respondents having a favorable opinion of the agency. The complicated nature of the paperwork necessary to file taxes may be a contributing factor.

“It’s not something I’d choose to spend my time doing,” said Rob Harrington, a junior majoring in finance and economics who does his own taxes. “I work jobs at home and here, so I need to have my W-2s forwarded, which is inconvenient.”

For Harrington and students in his situation, there is a resource on campus that can help. The SaveFirst initiative offers students an opportunity both to do their taxes quickly, and to give back to the greater Tuscaloosa community. 

Megan Bailey, the curriculum development director at the Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility, said SaveFirst is a signature program of the Alabamian nonprofit Impact America that offers free tax preparation to families who make less than $52,000 each year, and individuals who make less than $20,000. SaveFirst staffs locations across the state with IRS certified tax preparers capable of handling tax forms and questions. 

“It’s very common to see students from UA, Stillman, Shelton – even occasionally some high school students,” Bailey said. She added that the $20,000 individual threshold means most students are eligible for the service. 

Beyond free tax preparation, SaveFirst offers students several opportunities to volunteer close to campus. The Poverty in America course (UH 331 or MGT 491), offered every spring semester, trains students to be either basic or advanced volunteers at one of the tax preparation sites. Students who do not wish to take the class can get involved as well; IRS training is offered throughout the month of January, and anyone can get certified and volunteer as their schedule allows.

“Our program is meant to help make sure that the money that’s coming into Alabama stays in the hands of Alabamians and the hard-working taxpayers that earned that money,” Bailey said. For those taxpaying students like Harrington, SaveFirst’s services can simplify some of the complicated paperwork that makes tax season so daunting. 

Students can visit SaveFirst in Tuscaloosa at the McDonald-Hughes Community Center.