A steady stream of people eager to get their taxes prepared for free showed up Saturday at the Donald W. Reynolds Community Services Center.
The event, dubbed Super Saturday, was a joint effort by volunteers from the Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Earned Income Tax Credit Coalition, Association for Community Organizations for Reform Now, IRS Stakeholder, Partnerships, Education and Communication Disability Initiative, St. James United Methodist Church, Southern Good Faith Fund and Pine Bluff Weed & Seed/Interested Citizens for Voter Registration Inc.
Blake Williams, special projects manager for Southern Good Faith Fund, said that by about 1:30 p.m. Saturday, volunteers had served roughly 40 people.
“Overall I think we’ve had a very strong turnout,” he said. “We’re very pleased and very glad to be able to help all of the people who we’ve helped … And we still have people coming in.”
The Department of Treasury, the Internal Revenue Service and community partners nationwide on Saturday kicked off EITC Awareness Day events to promote the refundable tax credit for low-wage workers and options for free tax preparation.
Saturday also marked the deadline for employers to send W-2 Forms to employees. More than 60 percent of tax returns claiming the EITC are filed during February, according to an IRS news release.
People began arriving at the center before the event started at 9 a.m., Denise Grace, executive director of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, said.
“We’ve got about close to 20 here now,” she said at about 9:30 a.m. “We had some who came really early.”
Grace said they had to turn a few people away because they didn’t have all of their paperwork or didn’t have a spouse present to file a joint return.
Grace and the Rev. Jesse Turner, coordinator of Weed and Seed, were among several volunteers gathering initial information before clients were sent to one of six tax preparers to complete their returns.
“So far things are going great,” Turner said. “There’s a pretty steady flow of traffic.”
Volunteers completing “intake forms” asked questions like whether clients were itemizing or taking the standard deduction and what their filing statuses were.
The 15 chairs in the middle of the meeting room were full of people waiting. And there were about 10 other chairs around the room where people were completing intake forms and having their taxes prepared.
Patricia Jones of Pine Bluff said as she was waiting in the hall that she heard about the event when she sought credit counseling from Southern Good Faith Fund. She and her fiance are trying to buy a home.
“I usually pay a tax preparer and it usually costs me between $100 and $200,” Jones said. “I need all the money I can get.”
David and Mary Bolden, who were waiting inside, said they arrived at 9 a.m. sharp to take advantage of the free service. They, too, usually pay a tax preparer.
“I think it’s good of them to do this,” Mary Bolden said. “You might have to wait a little longer but still it saves you from having to pay big prices at H&R Block or Jackson Hewitt.”
And that comes in handy, David Bolden said, because he’s retired now. “We never get anything back.”
Benita Rauls of Pine Bluff said after her return was completed that she was happy with the result.
“She called out the numbers to me to make sure they were correct and everything,” Rauls said. “I am very satisfied, especially since I don’t have to pay that $100 to get my taxes done.”