Free tax preparations offered to Marylanders who earn less than $55,000

Marylanders who earned less than $55,000 in 2018 may be able to get free tax preparation at one of 45 sites across the state.

The CASH campaign kicked off Monday, the day the Internal Revenue Service began accepting tax returns. The campaign, which stands for Creating Assets, Savings and Hope, is in its 18th year.

More than 700 IRS-certified volunteers work with clients to prepare and electronically file federal and state returns. They also offer clients financial coaching, such as helping them open savings accounts or buy savings bonds.

“It means everything to people that this be done properly,” said Rep. John Sarbanes, a Baltimore County Democrat. “We know there are tax preparers out there that are unscrupulous. You can have the assets. You can have the savings. But you don’t get to the hope part if someone comes along and takes a big chunk out of that refund, or worse is doing something they shouldn’t be doing with it.”

More than 100,000 low- to moderate-income Maryland workers can claim the Earned Income Tax Credit with free tax preparation but do not, according to the campaign. The tax credit can give working families thousands of dollars, even if they do not owe any tax or are not required to file.

Some for-profit commercial tax preparers charge interest up to 600 percent a year and fees up to $500 from an average $2,297 Earned Income Tax Credit, campaign officials say.

Last year, the campaign prepared and filed 23,000 returns in Maryland, worth a combined $35 million in returns.

To set up an appointment, go to cashmd.org or call 1-800-492-0618.

A dozen tax prep sites are operating in Baltimore. The rest are scattered across 18 counties.

ywenger@baltsun.com

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