Free tax help available to many Bay Area residents


Even if you didn't qualify in previous years, this year could be different, especially if you saw a reduction in your income.

It is a typical day at Northeast Community Federal Credit Union in San Francisco. The office is crowded with people looking for help with their taxes. It is one of more than 200 "Earn it, Keep it, Save it" sites around the Bay Area offering free tax help.

"You know we're up about 25 percent from last year, so I think all the sites are really busy," United Way spokesperson Kelly Batson said.

Households earning less than $49,000 a year qualify for assistance. In recent years, about half of the clients looking for help are getting it for the first time. About 30 percent have lost their job.

"It is really sad, it's really terrible, but the great thing about our sites is that they're there to help the community, they have your best interest at heart," Batson said.

Guillermo Chavez took advantage of the free tax help for the first time this year. He will be getting a tax refund of $3,500, including an earned income tax credit and San Francisco's matching Working Families credit. He will use his refund to pay his rent.

"It's going to be a very, very good feeling; I'm going to be able to sleep comfortably at night," Chavez said.

Chavez has not had a full time job since 2005. He is getting by with temporary contract work. In the past, he has paid someone to do his taxes for him, hoping to get what was advertised as a rapid refund.

"No it wasn't; it was rapid getting the money out of my pocket," Chavez said.

Guillermo had to pay a check cashing fee of $75 to get his refund in the past. Now he will get his refund within 10 days for free.

"Places like this are a god send to people that pardon the expression, a god send for people that are low income, that don't have an idea of where to get to get their taxes done for no charge," Chavez said.

To find the nearest free tax clinic near you, call the United Way hotline at 211.

Michael Finney and a team of tax experts will be hosting online tax chats on Monday, March 14 and Monday, April 11 from 5-8 p.m. If you would like to submit your question in advance, send us a tweet to @abc7newsbayarea using the #taxchat hashtag. You can also email your question to

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