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AccountAbility Minnesota

I don’t know about you…but I am not thinking about tax season quite yet.  I usually file my taxes in February or March – except for that one year I had to take a vacation day from work to get them filed on April 15!  Today’s organization is already ramping up for the 2012 tax season here in Minnesota.

AccountAbility Minnesota is an organization dedicated to providing high quality tax preparation and related financial services to individuals and families of limited means by leveraging volunteers.  They also advise and assist others to provide similar services in their communities.  They are based in St Paul, Minnesota, but during tax season they prepare taxes around the Twin Cities metro area at 12 different locations in St Paul, Minneapolis, Hopkins, Brooklyn Park, and Bloomington.

In 1971 a group of tax professionals came together with the same belief, an individual’s access to quality tax assistance and financial refunds should not depend solely on one’s ability to pay for such services.  Shortly, AccountAbility Minnesota was formed and began providing free tax prep to low and moderate income individuals. 

Just over five years ago, AccountAbility Minnesota expanded their scope to include additional financial services at their tax clinics.  They aim to help taxpayers use the “money moment” that tax time provides to help them build assets.  They maximize taxpayer refunds and then encourage the taxpayer to use their tax return to build assets and improve their long term financial security.  In addition, the organization also provides training and technical assistance to other organizations around the state to run free tax preparation programs.

As of August 31, 2011, AccountAbility Minnesota has provided free assistance to more than 11,460 taxpayers enabling them to keep 100% of their refunds.  A record number of 569 volunteers have collectively prepared 24,153 returns totaling $21.7 million in refunds to low and moderate income families.  They have also assisted individuals in opening nearly 3,000 savings accounts. 

 

How can you help?

First – you don’t need to be a tax professional or even know anything about taxes to volunteer with AccountAbility Minnesota!  There are several volunteer opportunities including:

  • Tax preparer volunteers complete federal and state returns using tax software.  Training is provided, but some tax experience is needed.  One hour of volunteer tax preparation can mean $2,000 directly into the pockets of families struggling to make ends meet.
  • Self-employment tax preparers complete federal and state returns using tax software for customers who are independent contractors or sole proprietors. These volunteers should have two to three years tax experience or experience working with Schedule C.  Again, training is provided.
  • Tax reviewers assist in the reviewing of tax returns completed by AccountAbility Minnesota volunteers.  All tax returns done by volunteers go through a quality review process which makes this makes the organization top notch in the field of free tax preparation.  Reviewers ensure every customer receives top quality service and that the returns are accurate.
  • Tax site screeners help manage the flow of activities at the tax clinic. They greet and register customers as well as screening for eligibility.
  • Interpreters provide interpretation for conversation between the preparer and customer.  Languages needed include Spanish, Oromo, Somali, Hmong, Vietnamese, Russian and American Sign Language.
  • Financial advocates provide information on credit reports, work support programs and strategies for savings.
  • Financial planners offer pro bono financial planning advice to help taxpayers maximize their refunds.  These volunteers must be a certified financial planner.

If you would like to volunteer, you can find additional information and sign up for a volunteer orientation on their website.  You can also learn more about financial in in-kind donations online.

You can learn more about AccountAbility Minnesota on their website, accountabilitymn.org.  You can also connect with them on Twitter and Facebook.  If you are interested in volunteering,

 

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Posted by on November 2, 2011 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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EARN

More than half of American families across all income brackets do not feel they could meet their basic financial needs if their income was disrupted for three or more months.  Over 40% state they would dip into a retirement savings if they had an interruption in their income.  Today’s organization is helping to give low-income working families the power to create prosperity for generations through financial education. 

EARN is the nation’s leading microsavings provider.  They provide families the tools to build wealth and achieve life-changing goals such as saving for college, buying a first home, or starting a small business.  Since 2001, they have helped tens of thousands of low-wage families in the San Francisco Bay Area through innovative financial products including matched savings accounts, checking accounts for the unbanked, and financial coaching.

EARN program savers receive 8 hours of financial management training, covering budgeting, spending, credit repair, and long-term planning.  Savers also complete at least two asset-specific workshops per year, covering topics such as starting a small business, budgeting and credit, managing debt, intro to finance, financial aid for education, and first-time home purchase. 

Perhaps the best way to explain EARN’s impact is to share a story from a recent Saver, La Tanya.  After years of drug addiction, La Tanya got clean and sober for her children.  She and her husband struggled to build a better future for their family, but when he got laid off, they almost lost everything – even the kids’ dreams of college.  “EARN saved us,” she says. “EARN taught us to make the most of our money… and the kids learned to save, too.”  Today, La Tanya is a business owner and homeowner, and her son is in college.  Learn more about La Tanya and other success stories here.

EARN also offers some financial information on their website that anyone can take advantage of.  Some of the resources available include the Money Mindfulness Expense Tracking Spreadsheet, a variety of short financial seminar videos, and links to many other resources and financial tools. 

EARN’s ultimate vision is that millions of well-informed, low-wage American families will achieve financial success through proven strategies, fair public policy, and their own hard work.

You can help EARN as a volunteer.  They have a wide range of volunteer needs from routine tasks to teaching Saver Workshops.  You can learn more about the current volunteer opportunities here.  Financial donations are also accepted through the EARN website

Learn more about EARN at their website, www.earn.org.  You can also follow them on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2011 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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