That’s where Code for America comes in.
It fully launched just days before the IRS volunteer sites shut down, quickly becoming the only way the volunteer tax preparers could keep working. Now when people call Tax Help Colorado, director Courtney O’Reilly can direct them to the Get Your Refund site.
Once all their documents are uploaded and verified, she partners them with one of the volunteer tax preparers.
“The urgency in the phone calls really struck me,” O’Reilly said. “During a traditional tax season, they’re looking for assistance but it’s a little less panicked. Now, it’s ‘What can I do? I’ll do anything.”http://rss.cnn.com/”
Code for America expected to help process about 5,000 tax returns this year, partnering with Tax Help Colorado and three other providers through the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. But now that’s ballooned to 40 different groups, and Code for America may end up processing as many as 50,000 returns this year, said Lou Moore, interim co-CEO and chief technology officer.
“It’s really timely that we have this tool available. We just weren’t planning to get this big right away,” said Moore, who’s adding more engineers to get the site ready for more users.
Scaling up fast
Initially, the service was meant to help people in rural communities who may not have a tax preparer site nearby, or anyone whose work hours would prevent them from being able to get assistance in person.
The passage of the $2.2 trillion federal stimulus program in late March gives those families even more of an incentive to file. The federal program aims to get money directly into the hands of about 90% of Americans as quickly as possible as they deal with the financial fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
But the IRS is using tax returns to calculate payments, leaving people who haven’t filed their 2019 or 2018 returns scrambling to do so. Otherwise, the agency might not be able to verify who they are or how to send them the money.
New online tools
It won’t resolve every challenge for non-filers, like those who don’t have Internet access, but it should be easier than filing a full return.
Code for America is now working to integrate that tool with its own service.
O’Reilly was at first unsure if her volunteers would be willing to help out from home during the pandemic, but says she was overwhelmed by the positive response. They have about 25 volunteers working remotely and more standing by if needed.
“I think right now, people want to help other people,” she said.
Next week, the IRS is planning to roll out a web portal that will give people whose bank account information is not on file with the agency the ability to submit it in order to get their stimulus payments faster, without waiting for paper checks.
It will also help people check on the status of their payments.