ChicagoEvery year, millions of working families miss out on tax credits that could result in savings or bigger refunds. This tax season, families in Rockford, who are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), stand to lose as much as $2.8 million if they fail to claim it. And, according to the non-profit Center for Economic Progress, up to one in three Illinois taxpayers is failing to take advantage of the one-time telephone refundleaving up to $80 million unclaimed.
One of the most effective federal programs to help working families has been the EITC. For a family with two children, their EITC tax refund can be as much as $4,400. The average federal EITC refund in 2005 was $2,022.
While helping those families make ends meet, the EITC also infuses hundreds of millions of dollars into the Chicago and Illinois economy each year. According to the Brookings Institution, in 2003, Rockford residents received $24,007,832 in EITC refunds, and those funds are usually recycled directly back into the local economy.
Though the EITC has lifted 4.4 million people out of poverty, a large percentage of families and workers eligible for the EITC fail to claim it because of complex rules, lack of awareness and other barriers.
In addition to the EITC, the Center for Economic Progress reports the phone tax refund is another overlooked benefit this tax season. With the repeal of a tax on long-distance telephone calls (first levied to help pay for the Spanish-American War nearly 110 years ago), families can get anywhere from $30 to $60, depending on household size.
The Center, through its volunteer-driven Tax Counseling Project, works to ensure Illinois low-income families receive all the credits to which they are entitled. The Center offers free tax preparation assistance in 36 Illinois communities, including Rockford.
The Rockford tax site is the Northwest Community Center, 1325 N. Johnston Ave. The site will run through April 14, and is open 5:30-8 p.m., Monday and Wednesday; and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday.
David Marzahl, executive director of the Center for Economic Progress, said: The tax refund is the largest single payment of any kind that many working families receive all year. They have worked hard for it, and deserve it. With the April 17 tax filing deadline only weeks away, we want to make sure working families keep more of their hard-earned money.
Working families with household incomes of less than $40,000 and individuals with incomes less than $15,000 are eligible for the Centers free services. For more than a decade, the Center has assisted more than 150,000 working families through its Tax Counseling Project, helping to generate more than $200 million in income tax refunds, and saving families more than $10 million in tax preparation fees.
For information about the Centers free tax preparation sites, call 312-630-0273 or TTY 312-701-1326, or visit www.centerforprogress.org. All of the Centers tax sites are ADA accessible.
If individuals are not filing a return, but would like to claim the phone tax refund, the 1040EZ-T is available online at www.centerforprogress.org.
The Center for Economic Progress seeks to encourage financial stability and build the assets of working families. As a frontline service provider, advocate and community educator, the Centers programs and services impact tens of thousands of families each year.
From the March 28-April 3, 2007, issue