It may sound like a scam, but there’s such a thing as free tax preparation and tax credit assistance for people in Montgomery County, Maryland.
Monique Ngo Ngwe, a nurse assistant in Gaithersburg couldn’t believe it.
“I don’t want to be in trouble with the IRS!” she said. “[This is] the best thing I’ve ever seen in America!” she said of the free help she received.
Ngo Ngwe said she heard that Montgomery County was pairing residents like her — people who earn $60,000 or less per year — with tax experts for free. At first, she figured it might not be legitimate. But when her friend showed her the refund she got from the IRS, she immediately contacted county officials.
On Friday, Ngo Ngwe joined state, county and local officials at The Equity Center office in the Lakeforest Mall for the kickoff event with nonprofits such as CASH Campaign of Maryland, as well as programs including Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and the Gaithersburg Financial Empowerment Center.
Ngo Ngwe told the audience how she made her appointment with VITA, and they provided her with a volunteer who could translate the information in her native French. Ngo Ngwe said when she saw how much money she would be getting back, she was a bit concerned.
Maryland State Comptroller Brooke Lierman also attended the event, explaining, “There are too many low-income Marylanders who don’t know what tax credits they qualify for.”
“It’s really important that there is high-quality service available that is free,” said Lierman, who understood Ngo Ngwe’s initial skepticism. “There are too many unscrupulous tax preparers out there that might take advantage of low-income filers — and we are always looking to prosecute those.”
Under the program, Montgomery County residents are paired with trained tax preparers like Beatriz Soriano Luna, who volunteers with VITA. Soriano Luna said that being able to provide the free tax help “makes me feel so good because I’m able to make just a small difference in their lives.”
Soriano Luna said many of the clients she deals with may be able to cover day-to-day expenses, but a single car repair or missed paycheck can be devastating. So being able to find clients all of the money they may be entitled to, like the Earned Income Tax Credit, is rewarding. And the cooperation with Montgomery County also provides clients with links to other county services they may need.
For more information, visit the county’s website.