Free income tax preparation help on campus

Free tax filing help is available this year at the University of Washington Bothell and Cascadia College campus for students and non-students alike. 

IRS-certified volunteers will help taxpayers with low to moderate incomes complete their forms starting Tuesday, Jan. 15, from noon to 4 p.m. in Founders Hall. The service continues on Mondays and Tuesdays through April 16 (except Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 21). 

This is the first year United Way of King County has offered the service on campus. There are 32 such tax help sites in King County, but this is the only one in the Bothell area. Offered through the Health and Wellness Resource Center’s Benefits Hub, the service is open on a walk-in, first-come, first-served basis, said Bailey Moritz, the Benefits Hub coach. 

Expert Assistance 

Bailey Moritz

Bailey Moritz

Marc Studer photo

About 30 volunteers have signed up to help tax payers at this site. Approximately half are from UW Bothell and half from Cascadia College, although there may be non-college volunteers as well, Moritz said. All have been certified in the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. 

The training emphasizes privacy, said Moritz, who is certified. The volunteers will also be looking to maximize eligible tax credits. 

“It’s cool to see how much money you can get back on a tax return,” she said. 

The filing process usually takes a half-hour to an hour, depending on the situation. The main requirement is that taxpayers have an income of $66,000 or less, because the service is designed for those with low to moderate incomes. For more information on requirements, visit freetaxexperts.org

Signs will direct taxpayers to file into Founders Hall UW1-103 where they will sign in and pair up with a volunteer. A site manager hired by United Way of King County does a final check. Then, taxpayers file their returns on the spot through a laptop computer. 

“Especially since there are changes, it’s a good year to get this done by trained folks,” Moritz said. 

Student Volunteers 

Volunteers don’t have to be business or accounting students, but a lot of them are interested in the financial world, Moritz said. 

One of this year’s campus volunteers is Marwa Alwattar, a UW Bothell Accounting major planning to graduate in 2020 and take the CPA exam. For the past two years, she has been a VITA volunteer for United Way of Snohomish County in Everett. 

“Once you join this program and feel the joy of helping families by doing their taxes, you will never stop,” said Alwattar. “People usually are stressed about their taxes. We try to make their experience easy and smooth — and try our best to help them get the refund they deserve without missing any details.” 

The experience is good practice for accounting students. It also gets noticed on resumes, and the volunteers feel they are making a difference in the community. 

“To see the happiness in their faces is a really precious moment,” Alwattar said. 

The Health and Wellness Resource Center, managed by Marlee Fischer, opened in the fall in the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC-120.) The center connects students with health, housing and financial resources to deal with challenges that could get in the way of staying in school and completing their education.


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