By Brad Colvin, financial advisor with Hefren-Tillotson and volunteer with United Way’s Free Tax Prep program
One of the best things about being a financial advisor is helping people make smart decisions with their money. But my love for numbers and working with people doesn’t end at my day job. In 2017, I learned about United Way’s Free Tax Prep program and was instantly intrigued. I was already familiar with United Way through Hefren-Tillotson, where I’ve helped lead internal campaigns to raise money for the organization. I’ve also volunteered at dozens of United Way events over the years and have led volunteer support as well. When I discovered their Free Tax Prep program, there was no doubt that I wanted to get involved.
I’m now about to start my third year as a volunteer. During that time, I’ve learned some things that are worth sharing with anyone who may also want to get involved.
- It’s a rewarding experience.
To put it simply, being a United Way Free Tax Prep volunteer feels good. I’ve helped many veterans in the past and learned that most of them don’t just come in to get their taxes done. They mostly want someone to talk to. My favorite thing about this program is the community it builds and the connections you make by helping people do something that they otherwise may not do, which is file their taxes. And the results are immensely satisfying. I helped one person who used his refund to put a down payment on a car so he could easily get to work and take his kids to school. It’s a very humbling and rewarding experience.
- It’s an incredible networking opportunity.
There’s a place for everyone in the Free Tax Prep program, whether you’re a college student, a seasoned professional or a retiree. Volunteering allows you to make new friends, connect with local professionals, and engage with like-minded people who enjoy giving back to the community.
- You don’t have to be a “numbers” person.
Taxes can be complex, so it’s understandable that someone who isn’t a financial expert might hesitate to help others file their returns. What I like about United Way’s Free Tax Prep program is that it’s easy and painless for everyone. All volunteers go through IRS-certified training to ensure they’re comfortable before they start. Once you’re trained, you’ll feel more confident in doing others’ taxes as well as your own. It’s a valuable learning opportunity that will benefit you in the long run (taxes are guaranteed for life, after all) while giving you the satisfaction of doing good for someone in need.
- You can set a schedule that works best for you.
Another benefit of the Free Tax Prep program is how flexible it is. For people who work a standard day job, there are options to volunteer in the evening or on weekends. United Way will work with you to build a schedule that best suits your lifestyle and doesn’t interfere with your other responsibilities. Because the program is widespread, it’s also easy to find a location that’s convenient for you. There are sites all across the Pittsburgh region, so chances are there’s one in or close to your neighborhood.
With tax season approaching, remember that everyone can benefit from filing, regardless of income. United Way’s Free Tax Prep program enables many people to make a smart financial decision that can improve their lives. To me, being a volunteer has been worth every second.
If you’re interested in getting involved with United Way’s Free Tax Prep program, here’s where to start.