Get a Financial Check-Up with the Center for Working Families
What is the Financial Check-Up?
The Financial Check-Up (FCU) is a light touch, one-on-one financial assessment that allows Boston residents to review their credit report with a trained financial guide and learn how to improve their credit over time. The FCU was developed by Boston Tax Help Coalition (BTHC) to maximize free tax preparation as an asset building opportunity. The BTHC recognized that for many, reviewing one’s taxes encourages individuals to consider opportunities to use their tax refunds to save and build credit.
The FCU builds on this by providing personalized credit building education about the resident’s financial options, and those receiving a refund leave the Boston Tax Help Coalition better informed about optimizing their tax refund. The BTHC also helps residents get refundable credits – such as the Earned Income Tax Credit  and the Additional Child Tax Credit . The refunds can represent ‘start-up’ capital, allowing for down payments on a house, car, or other major purchase.
What does the Financial Check-Up actually involve?
A Boston taxpayer can go to one of the Boston Tax Help Coalition’s free tax preparation locations that offers the FCU to meet with a Financial Guide. Find a location. The process begins with screening for tax preparation readiness and eligibility. First, the guide makes sure the taxpayer has brought the necessary tax documents, including W-2s and Social Security identification numbers. Second, the guide screens for service needs, asking the taxpayer if a referral to welfare, health, housing, legal or other government or nonprofit provided service for people in need would be useful. The taxpayer is also given the opportunity to register to vote. Third, the guide asks the taxpayer’s permission to pull her credit report and review it with her. Doing so allows many taxpayers – about half have never had a prior opportunity according to their survey response – the ability to view their credit report for the first time. Next, the guide and the taxpayer review the debt listed on the credit report, addressing any questions that may arise. On a separate form, the guide summarizes the taxpayer’s debt listed on the credit report, including the credit score. The guide lists the debt by type, such as revolving/credit card accounts, installment accounts, mortgages, closed with balances, public records, and collections.
After reviewing appropriate financial products with the taxpayer, which might include Second Chance Checking Accounts and Savings Bonds, the guide writes out a simple and short one-year financial plan suitable for the taxpayer to follow in the coming year. This plan is given to the taxpayer to take home as a reference.
How can I sign up for the Financial Check-Up?
Contact the Center for Working Families to schedule a Financial Check -Up.
- The EITC is the largest wage subsidy for working LMI earners and their families provided by the federal government and administered by the IRS. The EITC amount can total over $6,000, depending on earnings and family size. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts delivers a state EITC that has been 15% of the federal EITC received by a taxpayer and will increase to 23% next year.
- The Additional Child Tax Credit provides the lesser of (1) $1,000 per child for LMI earners or (2) 15% of pay in excess of $3,000.