UW-Extension offers people free tax assistance

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- Volunteers with Dane County's UW-Extension office are offering to help people file their taxes for free.

This the 18th year they have offered this service, but they said this year is particularly important. This is the first year that the 2017 federal tax law will impact people's returns.

"The federal government passed probably the most sweeping tax reform in definitely in our generation and so people have questions about that," said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi.

Because of the tax law, most people will pay less, according to Noah Williams, a UW Madison economics professor.

"Households in Wisconsin that I looked at would see about a 2 percent increase in after tax income, so taxes would fall by roughly 2 percent on average," Williams said.

Williams also said the standard deduction doubled. This means people will not have to list all their deductions separately, making filing taxes simpler.

People might also see smaller refunds, but Williams said that is not a bad thing. Receiving a refund means that someone overpaid their taxes.

"It's like you're providing the government or the IRS with a zero-interest loan," Williams said.

However, there are many other changes to filing tax returns in 2019, including changes in the Child Tax Credit. Parisi said that is why UW-Extension's free tax assistance is so helpful, especially for low-income families.

"A good tax accountant just shouldn't be available to people who can afford to pay for one. This money belongs to folks, they paid their taxes," Parisi said.

The government shutdown has delayed some returns, but UW-Extension staff said people should file as early as possible. Volunteers are available to help on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. People who need help should bring a photo ID and their social security card, as well as the social security cards for dependents.