Tax season can be stressful for anyone.
But for people with lower incomes it can be especially difficult, due to increasingly expensive tax preparation fees.
Prepare + Prosper (P+P), a St. Paul, Minnesota-based nonprofit, is trying to help. The organization promotes financial well-being for low- to moderate-income earners through free tax preparation and other financial services, including financial coaching and access to financial products.
P+P is supported by volunteers like Scott Schachtman, a financial advisor in RBC Wealth Management’s Edina, Minnesota office, who has served as a financial advocate with the nonprofit for nearly seven years. In that role, Schachtman has worked with P+P customers to go over their financial situation with a focus on finding ways for them to save some of their tax refund.
“These are great people working hard, trying to get ahead,” Schachtman says. “Prepare + Prosper helps them get on the right track.”
RBC Wealth Management financial advisor Scott Schachtman.
When P+P was founded in 1971, it initially offered free accounting services to small business owners. But as the nonprofit evolved, it started offering individual tax preparation for people with low- and moderate-incomes, as well as the other financial services it offers today. The nonprofit’s goal in everything it does is to help move individuals and families from “getting by” to “getting ahead,” says Tracy Fischman, P+P’s executive director.
“We want to help people get to a place of financial security,” she says.
P+P has helped more than 13,000 families in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area do their taxes for free, thanks to hundreds of community volunteers who are trained and certified as tax preparers. In 2017, P+P volunteers helped low-income families claim $25 million in tax refunds, according to Fischman.
A customer works with a volunteer tax preparer a Prepare + Prosper’s office. Photo courtesy of Prepare + Prosper.
After a customer gets a refund, P+P financial advocate volunteers like Schachtman help customers direct some of the money into saving, which, for some of the customers, is a completely new approach to their financial situation.
“Ultimately, we’re trying to get at the liquid savings crisis in America, where fewer and fewer U.S. households have liquid savings to weather a savings crisis,” Fischman says.
That’s a daunting task, when 70 percent of households in the United States are constrained by income, have limited savings, and/or are challenged by debt, according to Pew Research. But P+P is committed to helping people get a foot up wherever they can.
“When you see somebody make a little bit of progress, maybe open a savings account for the first time or clean up their credit report, that’s very rewarding to see,” Schachtman says.
A Prepare + Prosper volunteer works with a customer. Photo courtesy of Prepare + Prosper.
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