As tax season approaches, Foundation Communities is opening up its free tax preparation services to Austin’s low- to moderate-income residents.

In its 19 years of operation, Foundation Communities has filed 300,000 tax returns and raised half a billion dollars, said Walter Moreau, executive director of Foundation Communities.

“I can’t think of a [service] that’s had a bigger economic impact on our community,” he said.

This year, Foundation Communities expects to do 15,000 tax returns for Central Texans through the program, Prosper Tax Help.

Tax services are limited to families earning less than $80,000 annually and single people earning less than $60,000. However, residents outside the income limits should not be discouraged from making an appointment if their tax return is simple, IRS associate Robert Kerner said.

Prosper Tax Help is open seven days a week at six different locations throughout the Austin area. Services are provided by retired tax preparers and bookkeepers who are trained by the IRS. Appointments are recommended.

“If you need to get your refund quickly, now is the time to schedule an appointment,” Moreau said, adding January and February are the busiest months for filing taxes before speeding up again in April.

Tax assistance to look out for

Kerner said many residents neglect to claim tax credits they are eligible for. The IRS estimates over 20% of eligible residents fail to claim the earned income tax credit—which helps low- to moderate-income residents get a tax break. In 2022, the average Texan who claimed EITC received over $2,000, Kerner said.

Lori Duran, a local mother of five, said claiming the EITC helped her pay off debt and buy a house in 2018.

“I was in shock when I got my first tax return,” Duran said. “I [thought], ‘Is this for real?’”

The Saver’s Credit—a tax credit for residents who have made eligible contributions to their IRA or employer-sponsored retirement plan—and the “Green Credit”—available for people who use renewable energy, such as solar panels or electric vehicles—are also often neglected, Kerner said.

“We want the public to get all the benefits they are entitled to,” Kerner said.