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Minneapolis – St. Paul, Minnesota
 
 

Contact Information

If you, your business, or organization are interested in becoming a part of the Disability Initiative Workgroup, please contact Tracy Fischman of AccountAbility Minnesota at  [email protected].

If you are already a member of the Disability Initiative Workgroup and have questions regarding the IRS participation, then please contact Dave Brown at [email protected].

 
 
 
Disability Initiative Workgroup - 2010 Plans

AccountAbility Minnesota (AAM), a community-based nonprofit organization, is celebrating its 38th year of providing free tax assistance and related financial services to low- and moderate-income individuals and sole proprietors in the Twin Cities and across Greater Minnesota. In 1971, AccountAbility Minnesota's Taxpayer Services programs were established with the belief that an individual’s access to tax assistance and, by extension, important financial supports applied for through a tax return, should not depend solely on his or her ability to pay for such services. Since then, and particularly over the last five years, AAM has expanded its scope of work significantly. In addition to serving taxpayers with free tax assistance each year at its Twin Cities tax clinics, AAM provides training and technical assistance to other organizations throughout the state to help them provide these vital services that significantly boost the incomes of working families. Finally, AAM has developed partnerships with financial institutions to expand access to financial products and services that encourage low-and moderate- income taxpayers to use their cash credits to improve their long-term financial security. This program, called the Express Refund Loan and Savings (ERLS) program, is designed to help taxpayers establish a relationship with a mainstream financial institution through opening no-fee savings accounts, establishing direct deposits for their refunds and earnings, and save many customers money by offering an alternative to high-fee Refund Anticipation Loans.

In 2009, 17,250 taxpayers throughout Minnesota received free services, and nearly $30 million in tax refunds were returned to these taxpayers. Over the last four years, AAM customers have opened over 2,000 savings accounts and claimed their refunds quickly by taking over 1,400 low-cost Express Refund Loans with AAM’s financial partners.   

AAM served 1,300 people at our community tax sites who identified themselves as people with disabilities. In order to continue to spread the word about the services AAM provides, we are offering two orientation sessions for 15 organizations in December related to tax preparation for people with disabilities. We also will send out brochures to dozens of group homes, and make phone calls to 30 or more organizations to make sure the relevant contact people know about AAM's services.

Over the last two tax seasons, AAM has partnered with the Greater Twin Cities United Way and a number of other partner organizations to dramatically increase the number of taxpayers that claim the federal EITC.   This effort, called "Claim It," is supported through a broad-based public-private partnership to get the word out about the campaign and is focused on groups that are traditionally underserved and don't claim the tax credits they are due - including people with disabilities. In preparation for 2010, this group developed a poster campaign, and may also consider developing radio ads.   

AAM will work with the Greater Twin Cities United Way and a Marketing Subcommittee of the MN Tax, Education, and Assistance Coalition (MNTEAC) to spread the word through the ClaimIt! campaign as described above. Tens of thousands of posters and brochures will be distributed by mail and in person.   In addition, AAM will distribute 20,000 of our 2010 tax season brochure that includes detailed information about how and where to get free tax preparation and financial services. AAM also will hold a pre-tax season kick-off/open house at its new main office on Friday, January 22, and will invite partners from group homes and other organizations that serve people with disabilities to attend. AAM will invite supportive elected officials and policy makers from various state agencies to attend this kick-off event as well. Finally, AAM will work with MNTEAC, which is composed of nearly 60 members (including non-profit and government agency representatives), to hold an educational session about the REI Tour and the specific work we're doing to reach people with disabilities with both information and services.