Helping homeless people using tax refunds

This is the first part of a series of articles related to helping the homeless in more ways than just sticking cash out your car window. This work was inspired by a post on my Alpha Beta Gamma colleague Ngan Hoang’s blog The-Ideaz.com.

It’s almost tax time again and though this time of year often conjures up feelings of fear and anguish over finding and assembling paperwork as well as additional pain for those who owe the IRS, I think this can be a time of great hope for some people that are owed refunds and may not even know it. As an accounting student and a volunteer tax preparer, I know that tax refunds even for those with limited income can be hundreds of dollars, which can make a big difference. I once encountered a person on the street who told me she was panhandling to be able to save up for an apartment security deposit, as she was living in a campground at the time. She was employed but that money was not enough.

I don’t think I realized it at the time but she was likely a prime candidate for a tax credit called the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). I have seen returns with only about $700 in income from work garner about $200 in credit, money that can go a long way for someone in need.  The only problem is getting the money to them.

My Plan:

1. Marketing: Flyers with other helpful info will have free tax prep info on them. My own personal sample is coming soon.

2. Free Tax Prep: This is already provided by the IRS by students like me under a program called VITA.

3. Getting the refund to the taxpayer: Homeless people often receive mail “general delivery,” meaning they pick it up at the post office just using photo ID. I am working to determine the procedure for this in my local South Orange County, CA area. USPS phone reps have given me unreliable information, so I have taken the following steps.

3a. Attempt 1: Mail to Greyson Peltier, General Delivery, Aliso Viejo, CA 92656-9999 – Failed, Aliso Viejo post office says letters go to Laguna Beach. Gave up there because I got busy.

3b. Attempt 2: Mail to Greyson Peltier, General Delivery, Laguna Hills, CA 92654-9999 – Laguna Hills is close by and has a full post office. Some websites said this post office did general delivery. They did not and told me my mail was in Laguna Beach. I took the trip to Laguna Beach and it was not there. I allowed more than enough time, per the nice postal worker. This proves that you should NEVER send a tax check, or anything at all, general delivery to a post office without actually trying it out with a “dummy” letter. Postal worker said to address any general delivery to Laguna Beach, not any other city without a general delivery post office as it might not work as claimed.

3c. Attempt 3: Certified Mail (tracking #) and regular piece to Greyson Peltier, General Delivery, Laguna Beach, CA 92651 (per postal worker). Will update soon! Also considering trying Mission Viejo post office. I am going to ask someone there before I try sending anything to be safe. Check back in about a week.

 

 

 

 

 

Note: no content herein shall constitute an endorsement, express or implied by me or by anyone mentioned in the article. All views expressed are strictly my own unless explicitly stated. For entertainment and educational purposes only. I do not provide professional advice of any sort in this article. Seek a qualified tax adviser for your tax situation.

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