Helping Struggling Families Recover With Free Tax Prep

This is how we’re helping this tax season and how you can join in.

Fighting for Working Families

Enter your email address to learn more about how you can support working families through United Way of Central Illinois.

This year, Tax Day will be one of the most important of the century so far. That’s because the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a financial toll on so many families.

In 2019, free tax-prep programs run by United Ways across the U.S. brought back $1.85 billion to local communities, largely thanks to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC).


The Earned Income Tax Credit or EITC is the federal government’s largest benefit for workers. The EITC and CTC greatly reduce poverty for working families. Last year 22 million people received a tax credit through EITC. 

For Angel, a working mom of three, claiming the EITC changed her life. Before she knew she qualified, Angel was stuck with a car that was dangerous to drive. Buying a new car wasn’t an option, but Angel needed a car to drive her family to school, daycare and work every day. To make do with what she had, Angel became an expert at putting her car in neutral, re-starting it, and putting it back into gear—all while still moving. But then Angel had her taxes prepared at her local free tax preparation site, claimed the EITC, and received a return—enough to put a down payment on a more reliable car. 


MyFreeTaxes is an easy way for people to file their taxes for free. United Way offers this free online tax preparation software to every household with a simple return.

Destiny, a financial aid advisor, always had someone else prepare her taxes. It was expensive and she felt like they missed several deductions. Then she discovered MyFreeTaxes. The online platform walked her through tax preparation step-by-step and even makes it simple to find past returns on her computer. Destiny said she’s happy to find something that saved her time and money and plans to continue using MyFreeTaxes.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) 

The VITA program provides low- and moderate-income individuals and families with free, reliable assistance in filing federal tax returns. In 2019, thousands of VITA volunteers prepared hundreds of thousands of tax returns nationwide resulting in more than $1.85 billion returning to local communities. These dollars are spent to cover child care expenses, pay bills, as well as to save for the future. 

Jody’s two children were accepted to multiple universities. She wanted to help them make the best decisions they could, but long road trips, overnight stays and time away from work for campus tours can be near impossible for a hardworking single mother. Then Jody had her taxes prepared at her local United Way VITA site. Jody used the EITC tax credit she received for college visits, which helped her son and daughter find the campuses that were the best fit. Now Jody can feel confident that she did everything she could for her kids to have a good shot at a better life.

2020 Stimulus Payments

As families across the country struggle during the pandemic, United Way has run a nationwide campaign to help American households obtain their stimulus payments. This work continues as more stimulus payments become available, and many households will turn to VITA and MyFreeTaxes to get free help claiming missed stimulus funds. 211 has also served as a go-to resource for hundreds of thousands calling to get more information on the stimulus. 

CARES Act Charitable Deduction

On March 27, 2020, Congress enacted The CARES Act, which created a $300 charitable deduction for the 120 million Americans who do not itemize their taxes. United Way of Central Illinois donors can deduct up to $300 in charitable contributions made before December 31, 2020. 

Other Local Programs

Ladder Up

Ladder Up is offering free tax preparation for individuals earning up to $30,000 per year and families earning up to $57,000 per year.

Due to COVID-19 precautions, this normally in-person service has transitioned to drop-off and appointment only. After scheduling your appointment, go to the tax site, drop off your tax documents and your return, and you will work virtually to complete your filings.

Ladder Up drop-off service is held in the Salvation Army building at 1600 Clear Lake Ave., Springfield. 

Salvation Army Building

1600 Clear Lake Ave., Springfield, IL

Wednesday Hours 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM

Saturday Hours 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM

Open 2/12 through 4/15 - Wednesdays & Saturdays

Head to to schedule your appointment and view more program specifications.

Other Services

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

(800) 829-1040

(800) 829-4059 (TDD)

Social Security Administration

(800) 772-1213

Illinois Department of Revenue

(800) 732-8866

(800) 544-5304 (TDD)

The whole community benefits when more working individuals and families are able to move from a financial tightrope to solid ground. Share your email to learn more about how United Way of Central Illinois helps everyone in our community improve their financial stability, so they can pay for the basics and save for the future.

Together, We Can

Building a strong community that takes care of everyone who lives here depends on your generous support.