Detroit's free tax prep program helps thousands of residents

It's a Detroit success story - the city's free tax preparation program is allowing thousands of people to get a new lease on life.

"Some of the things I was able to do was purchase a car, as my family did expand - it was a necessity," said Detroit resident Moriah Allen.

And not only that, but Allen, 25, says she's been able to pay off debt, raise her credit score and put food on her table, thanks to the city's free tax preparation program.

"I used the money for my unpaid maternity leave that was very helpful," she said.

While Allen is just one of roughly 92,000 low-income Detroiters who filed for earned income tax credit or EITC refunds, the city says the 5-month old program is booming with nearly 18,000 more Detroiters filing for refunds in 2016 than the year before.

City officials also say those who filed claimed an average of $4,000 in their combined state and federal tax returns, which is about $74 million.

"What was done in Detroit with the expanded EIT Initiative is a national model and case study for other cities that can ignite results," said Rose Gill Hearn with Bloomberg Associates.

The mayor's office says historically an estimated 26,000 Detroit households that are eligible for the EITC haven't applied leaving roughly $80 million unclaimed.

"For those who haven't done so yet, please make sure and file your taxes," Allen said. "It's so very important."

While volunteers have helped in booking more than 1,000 appointments. City officials say it's easier than ever for those who are eligible as there are 12 free tax prep sites across the city and now, nine virtual or "drop off" sites.

"We allow community residents to come to a community partner that we have engaged with to drop off their taxes and have them prepared pick them up."

The city urges Detroiters to apply and remind everyone to check your eligibility for your 2015 and your 2014 tax returns as well because that could be even more money in your pocket.