United Way: Turning The Tax Tables

By Madison Reilly

Tax season is a stressful time for most Americans. It can be particularly challenging for taxpayers who have found themselves homeless. It is a common misconception that homelessness is a dilemma exclusive to the unemployed. They can and do coexist.  According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, 44 percent of the homeless are regularly employed yet still cannot escape homelessness.

Filing taxes can be overwhelming to the average individual. When your daily objective includes providing your family with a healthy meal and keeping your children warm at night, tax preparation becomes of little importance. Without the luxury to afford a professional tax preparer it becomes even less attainable. To combat this issue the Homeless Resource Network has partnered with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) for over a decade to provide free tax filing.

Lost In The Shuffle by Malorie Cirello
Lost In The Shuffle by Malorie Cirello

VITA is a free tax return preparation program. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) sponsors VITA, which is established by local organizations within the community. VITA volunteers are trained and certified by IRS guidelines. Some include college students who are majoring in accounting.

United Way of Greater Mercer County in New Jersey offers VITA to families or individuals making less than $60,000 annually.

You can visit one of their sites located throughout Mercer County. Appointments are preferred, but there are several locations that accommodate walk-ins.

The following information and documents are required for tax preparation: photo identification, social security cards for yourself and all dependents being claimed as an exemption, employment wages (Form W2), unemployment collected (1099-G),  healthcare forms (1095 A, B or C), mortgage or rent interest (1098) and your property tax assessment card.

You will also need a copy of the previous year tax return or the last return filed.

If you are due a refund and want it to be directly deposited, then a bank routing number and account number are required. If you do not have a bank account, then it can also be deposited onto a prepaid debit card.

Many taxpayers chose to self-prepare their form 1040. This practice is not always beneficial to lower income families. There are various tax credits and deductions they may qualify for, but are unaware of. These credits could maximize their refund significantly. Without the assistance of VITA these credits may not be taken advantage of.

The IRS is regularly implementing new laws and regulations. A common credit for a low income family is the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The program qualifies single adults with an annual income of less than $14,820 and married couples with less than $20,330 for receiving a credit of $503. This credit increases with each child. The IRS estimates that one in five taxpayers who qualify for this credit do not claim it.   

The mission of VITA is to assist eligible taxpayers in satisfying their tax responsibilities. To establish trust, the volunteers continue to maintain standards of high ethical conduct.  Individuals struggling financially would benefit from VITA. The program ensures clients receive their maximum entitlement available.  


United Way of Greater Mercer County provides the following VITA program locations:

Boys & Girls Club: 212 Centre St., Trenton

Walk-Ins, Mon, Tue, Wed – 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Catholic Charities: 39 North Clinton Ave., Trenton

Walk-Ins, Tue & Thu – 2 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Crisis Ministry: 121 East Hanover St., Trenton

Walk-Ins, Fri – 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Hamilton Public Library: No phone calls

1 Justice Samuel A. Alito Way, Hamilton

Walk-Ins, Wed & Thu – 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Latin American Legal Defense & Education Fund:

669 Chambers Street, Suite B, Trenton

Walk-Ins, Tue – 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.,

By Appointment, Saturday – 10 a.m. – 1 p.m., 609-688-0881


For additional locations call 211.


For more information provided by United Way of Greater Mercer County:

Call – 609-896-1912

Visit – 3150 Brunswick Pike, Suite 230 Lawrenceville, NJ 08648-2420