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United Way of SLO County aims to help residents with tax preparation ahead of April 18 deadline

Flickr member Chris Potter

The average fee to file taxes in the U.S. is $400, over one quarter of the housing budget for the average Californian for families with two adults, one preschooler, and one school-aged child. That’s according to the 2021 California Real Cost Measure.

With the April 18 tax deadline less than a month away, the United Way of SLO County says millions of families are eligible for billions of dollars in state and federal tax credits.

Now, the organization is holding tax preparation assistance sessions to try to help people on the Central Coast take advantage of those credits.

United Way of SLO County holds the sessions every Sunday from 11a.m. to 2p.m. at sites in Los Osos, Arroyo Grande and San Luis Obispo. They’ll be doing that until April 10th.

At the sites, volunteers help people navigate free online tax software, though they don’t do your tax returns for you.

Riley Smith, tax specialist with the United Way of SLO County, said e-filing is the best way to make sure you get your tax return on time.

"That really helps the IRS out in processing the returns quickly. Those who paper file or those who maybe had a typo with one number here or there, that all has an effect on it and that might lead to a delayed return," Smith said.

The organization is encouraging people to take advantage of state and federal tax credits like the California Earned Income Tax Credit and the federal Child Tax Credit.

"There are lots of ways to get refunds using these different credits that people are eligible for," said Susan Knowles, a volunteer with the United Way.

Knowles pointed out that tax season brings out scammers, so she advised to be careful with sensitive information.

"The IRS does not call you," she said. "They might send out a letter and ask you to call them, but they don’t call you. So if someone calls and says they’re from the IRS, it’s a scam."

SLO County United Way also hosts volunteer income tax assistance events on Saturdays in Oceano and Atascadero.

Benjamin Purper was News Director of KCBX from May of 2021 to September of 2023. He came from California’s Inland Empire, where he spent three years as a reporter and Morning Edition host at KVCR in San Bernardino. Dozens of his stories have aired on KQED’s California Report, and his work has broadcast on NPR's news magazines, as well. In addition to radio, Ben has worked as a newspaper reporter and freelance writer.
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