I’m not a numbers person.
I’ve been known to brag about my credit score and I’m proud to be a 20-something homeowner.
But when it comes to making sense of dollars and cents, I simply pay the bills and try not to think about my financial status.
Tax season forces me to confront it — from dreaded student loan interest to the always-lower-than-desired gross income. The impending tax return does soften the blow.
This year, a local program sweetened the deal.
As a single woman making less than $53,000 a year, I was one of the first beneficiaries of free tax services at the Goodwill Milgard Work Opportunity Center in Tacoma on Thursday.
It’s one of 75 free tax centers available in Western Washington to moderate- and low-income taxpayers as part of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.
I worked with a certified tax preparer who not only helped me file for free, but also taught me a little about the process.
Free taxes and education? I’ll be back in 2016.
Thursday’s launch started with a ceremony on the program’s success.
Officials from program sponsors — Key Bank, Goodwill, the Internal Revenue Service and others — spoke about reaching many families eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit who otherwise wouldn’t have collected what they were due. (This year, eligible taxpayers may receive a credit up to $6,143.)
Mike Fait, vice president and Community Reinvestment Act Manager for KeyBank, said that money can make a big difference for individuals who then put it back into the local economy.
Last year, Tacoma’s free tax center helped about 650 households, and even more are expected to benefit this tax season.
Although I didn’t qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit — which often goes to single mothers and households with children — the free tax services were useful for improving my financial literacy.
Tax center volunteer Amber Bearden cheerfully walked me through a worksheet with preliminary questions I answered — some that, admittedly, needed fixing — and explained everything from EITC eligibility to the difference between itemized and standard deductions.
She also explained how the tax process could change for me in the future.
“I really like working with clients the most,” Bearden said, adding that everyone’s taxes tell a story about their lives.
My 2014 story included buying a house. She said that didn’t have a huge effect on my return this year, but she said it will in years to come.
A second volunteer went through the forms to check for and fix any errors before submitting my return, assuring me that with direct deposit I should see my money in about two weeks.
Within a half hour, I was ahead of the game and a little smarter.
I’ll still stick with words, but numbers aren’t so bad.