The extended tax filing deadline of May 17th is quickly approaching. Yet, many Americans may still feel unprepared or ill-equipped to file their 2020 taxes even with that extension. After a rather economically eventful year, confused taxpayers may need guidance around things like unemployment benefits, childcare expenses, economic impact payments (commonly referred to as stimulus checks), and more.

Fortunately, the VITA program, which is managed by the United Way of Greater Atlanta, offers free tax preparation and filing assistance to help low- to moderate-income participants navigate those tricky questions. Available to anyone with a household income under $57,000, the program uses IRS-certified volunteers to help prepare and file state and federal tax returns—saving these individuals and families potentially hundreds in tax preparation fees and helping them increase their returns.

“During the past couple of months, in relation to the economic downfall in the USA, the IRS along with the Federal Government has implemented changes to help Americans get back on their feet financially,” says Economy F. Jackson, Director Asset Building Income, United Way of Greater Atlanta. “The majority of the benefits, such as the Economic Impact Payments, are received through filing your taxes. Even people that are not required to file must file to get some of these benefits.”

Jackson says people who meet the eligibility requirements but did not receive the first rounds of stimulus payments in 2020-21 may “claim the Recovery Rebate Credit” on their 2020 taxes for a chance to receive these payments in the EIP3 check distributions. Additionally, Jackson suggests VITA program tax assistants can help filers apply (if applicable) the new guidelines around the Child Tax Credit and Earned income tax credit (EITC) to help taxpayers maximize their refunds.

Over the 2019 tax season, the VITA program was able to help more than 15,000 filers and successfully secure $14 million in refunds to those hard-working families.

To take advantage of the program for the 2020 tax season, Jackson directs potential participants to:

Visit the United Way website for the most up-to-date information or call 211. Additionally, interested participants can text 211OD to 898211 and choose #3 for tax help.