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Free tax help crucial for so many people

Hundreds of Washington County residents who normally get their taxes done for free by either Washington-Morgan Community Action or Caring Connection were likely very surprised to find out this tax season that they no longer have that option.

For years, the agencies had provided a very valuable service to income-eligible residents, allowing those people to keep every penny of their tax refunds while having help in filing if they either weren’t comfortable doing so on their own or didn’t have the proper computer or internet access.

They used the Ohio Benefit Bank software to file the taxes and earlier this year, the benefit bank filed for bankruptcy. So, while those at Community Action and Caring Connection may still want to provide this service, they currently don’t have the means to. That particular software was extremely user-friendly and those filing didn’t have to be tax experts.

We want to encourage those agencies to keep looking for other alternatives. We know that it’s unlikely something will come along to help this year but perhaps this service can be restored in 2021. We hope someone can step in and help by providing a similar software setup.

In the meantime, county residents do have the option of free tax service through the AARP Tax Aide program. We’re grateful this still exists, as it uses a different program (that requires greater knowledge on the part of the volunteers who help). However, there are some challenges to this option as well. Appointments at the Barlow and Beverly libraries are limited to seven hours a week over two days in Beverly and three hours a week on one day only in Barlow. The AARP site in Marietta has longer hours but does not take appointments, which could make using the service very challenging for those who work full-time. Perhaps those organizing this program could consider changing that policy, at least this year, when there may be an extra flood of participants.

We hate to see our area lose a valuable service. Perhaps these agencies can work together to find a solution.

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