Free tax help for low-income residents, seniors in New Mexico

Community Reports

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – United Way of Central New Mexico is providing free tax help for people whose household income is $56,000 or less or those who are 65 years or older. The program is called Tax Help.

Volunteers are certified by the IRS and are trained to identify eligible tax credits. They will help prepare and file state and federal taxes for free, something that the organization has been doing for years said program manager Jeffrey Ledbetter. “The program started at CNM about 30 years ago. It started as a student project, became a student-faculty project, became a community project and then it became a statewide program which is what it is today,” Ledbetter said.

Ledbetter said Tax Help New Mexico became the administrator of the program 10 years ago. Last year before the shutdowns related to COVID-19, the organization had 31 sites around the state that provided these services. Now, the team has had to get creative about how they help clients.

They have a drive-through drop off option at the United Way office, which allows someone to drop off all necessary tax documents from the car. The tax preparation process typically takes 45-60 minutes. Once the return is completed, we will review the completed return with the client remaining in their car. Upon their approval, volunteers will e-file the federal and state returns.

Clients can also book an appointment where volunteers will scan all needed tax documents, return the documents, and returns will be available for pick up within 10 days. Beginning Monday, Feb. 1, clients will be able to use their mobile device or home computer to access and complete the free tax preparation service virtually using getyourrefund.org. Clients have the option to self-file their tax returns online by visiting www.myfreetaxes.com, a free software sponsored by United Way Worldwide and H&R block.

Most volunteers are retired engineers, Ledbetter said, who have been trained by the IRS and have a very high accuracy rate. “Our job isn’t just to do your taxes. Our job is to financially educate you on how to do your own taxes,” Ledbetter said. “We go through their tax returns line by line and a lot of times we hear that no one in their life has ever explained their taxes to them.”

Ledbetter said the volunteers have been trained to make sure community members receive the best return possible and see that as investing in the community. “What we do is get the community to invest in itself by giving the time of a professional service and then that professional service allows the people in their own community to do a necessity,” Ledbetter said. “If you have money, you’re going to pay somebody to do that for you. If you don’t have the money to pay somebody to look out for you like that, you don’t get back the totality of what you deserve.”

For more information on the program, visit Tax Help New Mexico on the United Way website.

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