GRESHAM — Low-income Oregonians received more than $2 million in refunds from the IRS thanks to the work of Catholic Charities.

The Catholic non-profit runs a free federally-backed tax clinic that helps primarily Hispanic families. The aid assists the families prepare and submit tax returns correctly and on time.

Trained volunteers prepared more than a thousand returns under the supervision of Catholic Charities staff during the tax season. The clinic was open four days a week from January until April 15.

With the average cost of preparing a return about $100, the taxpayers have collectively saved more than $100,000.

“The contribution made by our dedicated volunteers can’t be overstated: they are the ones who make our clinic possible,” says Karen Keating, who coordinates the project.

Almost 50 volunteers came forward and gave almost 2,500 hours. Volunteer time is up by a third from last year.  

The IRS says that people with limited English skills are vulnerable to errors or scammers posing as tax preparers.  

Catholic Charities ran tax clinics in Gresham, Canby and Molalla. Taxpayers traveled from 38 towns and cities in Oregon and Washington.

“This highlights what a great need there is among low income Spanish speakers for high-quality, trustworthy and free tax preparation services,” Keating says.

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program is an initiative of the IRS. It offers free tax help to people who generally make $52,000 or less, persons with disabilities, the elderly and limited-English-speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals.