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CEP Tax Prep Rundown 4/6/2018

Tax Site and Best Practice Shout Out

I collected a few shout outs this week, which only goes to show just how amazing you all are doing at being creative and effective.

Evanston and Bronzeville -- thank you for encouraging your volunteers to help out across all of the different roles at the site -- intake, preparation, savings coach, and sorting. I know how much of a relief that can be! 

Evanston -- Donna recently sent out an email to her volunteers and she included this in it to encourage volunteering at multiple sites. Thank you so much for being such a team player! "The Uptown site would welcome you as they have lots of computers and lots of clients eager to get their taxes done!  There is free parking. The site managers and volunteers are a friendly sort. I see Larry G there regularly. Nancy S is already a legend there!"

Waukegan -- we heard directly from several volunteers recently who went out of their way to share the following information. (it’s not quoted as they mentioned these things in person) Tia, Sara, and Denise have been incredible at managing the Waukegan tax site! With Tia being relatively new and Sara and Denise being brand new this is terrific feedback! Keep it up!

Joliet -- Lastly, the IRS did a site review for our Joliet drop off program and here’s what Sergio had to say, "Based on my observations and completion of Form 6729, I find this site is rated Met for all of the Quality Site Requirements and Volunteer Standards of Conduct. Overall, the remote site is well run and is staffed by committed volunteers. You have good operating practices in place to allow for the quality preparation of client tax returns."

Outcomes and impact (including our savings campaign winners!)

We’re in the single digits!! We made it! As of last week, we are down 8% over last year and projected to be down 4% over last year by the end of the season. For context, according to the IRS, VITA overall is currently down by 3.6%. CEP is only successful because of our site staff and volunteers. Thank you!

As for our savings numbers, we are up by 12% so far! We have a follow-up meeting coming up with one of our biggest funders, Prudential, who supports our tax time financial capability work and it’s so exciting to share with them all of the amazing outcomes you’ve helped us achieve so far. Again, thank you, for your hard work in making this conversation such a breeze! :)

This week’s savings winner is Kathleen V. from Uptown! Kathleen saved over a thousand dollars! Way to go Uptown!

CEP in the news!

Univision interviewed one of our long-time Pilsen volunteers, Crystal, about the work CEP does for the communities we serve. Check it out here.

Volunteer Resource Hub- Calling All Experts!

Looking for a way to keep busy after the season ends? Volunteer with us and help us beef up our Volunteer Resource Hub this summer with the latest tax and financial resources. We're looking for volunteers with a few years of experience, or advanced tax certification, to help develop articles for the Hub after tax season. The volunteer work can be done in the comfort of your own home, and bi-weekly meetings are held over the phone. If you are interested, please email Liz Brooks-Zak at lbrookszak@economicprogress.org.

Also, send us your feedback if you've used the Hub this tax season! We'd love your input as we continue to improve the site over the summer. Please email hub@economicprogress.org to let us know how you're using the Hub, what you like, and what we need to focus on improving.

Project Money is underway! Refer your clients!

Our financial coaching program is underway and we have several tax site referrals who have started meeting with a financial coach to achieve their financial goals! We have a goal of reaching over 100 people this year and we need your help to get the word out. Please let your clients know about the program and the benefits they can experience. You can share this flyer with them. Check out these testimonials for evidence at just how meaningful the program can be.

"Before I joined Project Money I ignored my debt, bills and even my personal goals because of the pressure and my lack of money management. Now I face them with understanding confidence and optimism."

"Financial freedom is more tangible than it seems. Through Project Money I went from reading about it, liking pictures of people that seemed in abundance to actually being someone who is in control of their financial future!"

"The difference between abundance and debt is your ability to see past your own perception. Project Money helped me to overcome some economical anxiety and gave me the tools to organize, strategize and capitalize."

A New Generation of Tax-Time Loans Surges in Popularity

The National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) and Consumer Federation of America (CFA) issued their annual report on tax-time consumer issues. Tax-Time Products 2018: A New Generation of Tax-Time Loans Surges in Popularity discusses problems faced by taxpayers. “Tax-time is hard enough for most Americans, but they also face consumer protection challenges,” noted Chi Chi Wu, staff attorney at NCLC. “They need to avoid incompetent and abusive preparers and decide whether to choose financial products of varying costs. The fact that Congress has delayed refunds for some of the neediest taxpayers makes the situation all that much worse.”

Where’s my amended return?

Did you know the IRS has a tool to track the status of amended returns? Much like the “Where’s my refund” tool, the IRS has a “Where’s my amended return?” tool. Check it out!

TIGTA Study: Increasing participation in the EITC

I thought this study may be of interest to you. The excerpt below is especially relevant to EITC outreach and program efficiencies.

"TIGTA recommended that the Commissioner, Wage and Investment Division, evaluate alternative approaches to increase EITC participation and reduce costs. For example, the IRS should consider eliminating Schedule EIC, Earned Income Credit, and modifying Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return,to collect necessary eligibility information instead of sending reminder notices. TIGTA also recommended that the IRS establish procedures to timely notify taxpayers who have received reminder notices with an error.  Finally, TIGTA recommended that the IRS establish a specific objective for increasing EITC participation rates for eligible taxpayers and related performance measures to determine whether the established objectives have been achieved. The IRS agreed with our recommendations."

https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/iereports/2018reports/2018IER004fr.pdf

Quality Results through April 4 to help identify any potential issues at your sites

The IRS SPEC office has completed another review of the quality of VITA and TCE sites.

Please review the summary of the results and consider how these might relate to your sites. Here are the official numbers from the report and the incorrect return review findings.

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