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In preparation for its 2012 tax season, Just Harvest is calling for volunteers to assist low-income filers across Allegheny County. From CPAs needing to meet continuing professional education requirements to those who’ve only done their own tax returns—all are welcome.

“We are reaching out to all our supporters,” said Just Harvest Co-director Ken Regal. “Were looking for about 120 people, which is more than last year because we’ve added several sites.”

During the last three years, volunteer professionals, students and retirees have logged more than 11,000 hours assisting those in need. They have helped prepare 14,756 tax returns, garnering $23.7 million in refunds—$9.2 million in Earned Income Tax Credits alone—to help people put food on the table, pay debts, make rent and mortgage payments, and pay gas and electric bills.

“The demand is huge and growing, and we’re trying to keep up,” Regal said. ”We want to do it slow and steady so we don’t get overextended and the volunteers allow us to do that. They are the critical piece of the puzzle.”

Applicants need only basic computer skills and a willingness to commit three hours of their time weekly during the January to April tax season. All training and IRS certification will be provided free of charge. New volunteers are given 16 hours of training. Those with accounting experience, and some students, may be eligible for Fast Track training.

This year’s recruiting and training effort is the product of a partnership between Just Harvest, the United Way of Allegheny County and the Money In Your Pocket Coalition.

Those interested can download a volunteer application by visiting http://www.pghfreetaxes.org. Completed applications may then be attached to an email and sent to the Money In Your Pocket Coalition at freetaxes@uwac.org or faxed to 412-456-6893.

Scheduling is very flexible, with daytime, evening and weekend times available, and in addition to the Just Harvest offices on the South Side, volunteers may schedule their time at one of several locations throughout the county.  These include Pittsburgh locations in Downtown, the East End, Lawrenceville, the Hill District, North Side, Oakland and the West End.

Sites outside the city are located in Sharpsburg, Monroeville, Natrona Heights, North Hills and Turtle Creek.

Just Harvest is an anti-hunger advocacy agency located on Pittsburgh’s South Side, and along with the United Way, is a member of the Money In Your Pocket Coalition, which includes the Allegheny County Department of Human Services, Allegheny Valley Association of Churches, Community Human Services, Family Resources, Garfield Jubilee, Goodwill of southwestern Pennsylvania, Just Harvest Education Fund, YMCA Hazelwood, and the Internal Revenue Service.

For more information about volunteering at a specific site contact Ann Sanders at 412-431-8960 ext. 16.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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