Tax credit can benefit low- and moderate-income workers
Houston County Courier
DALLAS - The Internal Revenue Service wants to raise awareness about a tax credit that could mean thousands of dollars to working families in Texas. Last year, more than 2.5 million families in the state received the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) with an average amount of $2,576. "One-third of the eligible population changes each year as their financial, marital and parental statuses change," said Clay Sanford, an IRS spokesman in Dallas. "Although an estimated four out of five eligible workers and families get the credit, one in five still miss out on it, either because they don't claim it when filing, or don't file a tax return at all." The EITC varies by income, family size and filing status. People can see if they qualify by visiting IRS.gov and answering a few questions using the EITC Assistant. In tax year 2011, over 27 million eligible workers and families received nearly $62 billion total in EITC, nationwide. Workers, self-employed people and farmers who earned $50,270 or less last year could receive larger refunds if they qualify for the EITC. That could mean up to $475 in EITC for people without children, and a maximum credit of up to $5,891 for those with three or more qualifying children. Unlike most deductions and credits, the EITC is refundable. In other words, those eligible may get a refund from the IRS even if they owe no tax. The EITC provides a financial boost for millions of hard-working Americans. However, the IRS reminds taxpayers that even though most federal tax refunds are issued in less than 21 days, many factors can affect how long it may take for taxpayers to get their refunds. It is also possible that a tax return could require additional review and therefore take longer to process. Taxpayers can track the status of their refund with the "Where's My Refund?" tool available for use on the IRS. gov website after the IRS starts processing tax returns on Jan. 30. How to Claim the EITC To get the EITC, workers must file a tax return, even if they are not required to file, and specifically claim the credit. Those eligible for the EITC have free options to file a tax return to claim the credit: •Free File on IRS.gov Free brand-name tax software walks people through a question and answer format to help them prepare their returns and claim every credit and deduction for which they are eligible. The program also allows people to file electronically for free, using Free File Fillable Forms, which are online versions of IRS paper forms designed for taxpayers comfortable preparing their own returns. •Free tax preparation sites EITC-eligible workers can seek free tax preparation at thousands of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) sites. To locate the nearest site, taxpayers can search www.IRS.gov or call the IRS at 800- 906-9887. Taxpayers can also find VITA/ TCE sites by calling their community's 211 or 311 line for local services. •IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers EITCeligible workers can seek free assistance in IRS locations across the country. Locations are listed online at www.IRS. gov. Hours and services offered vary by location and should be checked before visiting. More information on EITC and detailed eligibility rules are available at www.irs. gov/eitc.