Tax credit missed by some needing it most
- Jan 31, 2012
By Rita Price
The Columbus Dispatch
Sunday January 29, 2012 6:16 AM
Thousands of families miss out on hefty Internal Revenue Service refunds every year because they don’t claim the Earned Income Tax Credit when filing their returns.
The credit has been around since the mid-1970s and is heavily promoted by anti-poverty advocates, tax preparers and even the IRS, which yesterday kicked off its annual outreach campaign to low- and moderate-income workers.
But one in five eligible taxpayers still leaves the money on the table.
“The biggest reason is that people just don’t know about it,” said Verlinda Paul, IRS director for the credit.
Workers who earned $49,078 or less from wages, self-employment or farm income last year could be eligible for credits ranging from $464 for someone with no children to a maximum of $5,751 for those with three or more qualifying children.
The average credit for the 108,000 Franklin County taxpayers who claimed the EITC last year was about $2,290, according to the IRS. A total of $247 million in EITC money came back to the community for people to spend and save. Statewide, more than 941,000 Ohioans claimed the credit and received more than $2 billion.
Franklin County Commissioner Paula Brooks said it makes sense for the county to support the work of the Franklin County EITC Coalition and other groups that help people prepare their returns. “ This is a great return on investment for Franklin County,” Brooks said. “Tax credits are not a handout.”
One in four Franklin County households earns less than $25,000 a year, Brooks said.
Experts say the job losses and wage changes of the recession have, in some ways, complicated awareness about the EITC because many families don’t realize they have slipped to qualifying levels.
To claim the credit, workers must file a tax return that includes a completed Schedule EIC.
“One-third of the eligible population changes every year,” Paul said.
Brooks said officials are hoping for a big turnout on Saturday for Super Refund Saturday, which runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Columbus Downtown High School, 364 S. 4th St. The kickoff tax-preparation event is a partnership of the Franklin County EITC Coalition, the Ohio Benefit Bank and AARP.
The event also includes a financial-resources fair, public-benefits eligibility screening, help with college financial-aid forms, children’s activities and kindergarten-readiness assessments.
“We like to call it the Super Refund Saturday because that gets everybody’s attention,” Brooks said. “And the most important thing is it’s free.”
Category: General Business