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IRS seeks to increase local awareness of Earned Income Tax Credit

Many taxpayers in the Greater Pittsburgh area may be missing out on a valuable federal tax credit. The IRS is working to get word about the Earned Income Tax Credit out to all eligible taxpayers.

The Internal Revenue Service wants to raise awareness about a tax credit that could mean thousands of dollars to working families in Pennsylvania.

On Jan. 25, the IRS partnered with state and local government officials and community partners for the 7th annual EITC Awareness Day, a nationwide effort to increase public awareness about the Earned Income Tax Credit and free tax preparation sites.

Last year, around 903,000 families in Pennsylvania received nearly $1.9 billion in EITC with an average amount of $2,072.  In Allegheny County alone, some 78,000 families received approximately $151 million in EITC, with an average amount of just under $2,000.

According to the IRS, about a third of the people eligible for EITC changes every year, typically due to the birth of a child or changes in employment or marital status.  Due to these life changes, someone who didn't previously qualify for EITC may now qualify.

Although an estimated four out of five eligible workers and families get the credit, one in five misses out, either because they don't claim it when filing, or don't file a tax return. EITC is a tax credit that can make a difference. Nationally last year, the credit returned close to $62 billion to more than 27 million workers.

The credit can mean up to $475 in reduced taxes for people without children, and up to $5,891 for those with three or more qualifying children.  EITC varies by income, family size and filing status.  It is a refundable tax credit, so it can result in a tax refund when one might otherwise not be due.

People who work and earn less than $50,270 from wages, self-employment or farming may be eligible for EITC and for free help preparing their tax returns.  IRS-certified volunteers who offer free tax return preparation at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites across the country can help people learn if they are eligible for the credit.

Those seeking free tax return preparation and filing assistance should come prepared to a VITA volunteer site with the following:

  • A valid driver's license or other photo ID card
  • Social security cards, a Social Security number (SSN) verification letter or the Individual Taxpayer Identifying Number (ITIN) for all persons listed on the return
  • Birth dates for all persons listed on return
  • All income statements: Forms W-2 and 1099, Social Security, unemployment, and other statements, such as pensions, stocks, interest and any documents showing taxes withheld
  • All records of expenses, such as tuition, mortgage interest, or real estate taxes
  • Copies of last year's state and federal tax returns, if available
  • Bank routing numbers and account numbers to direct deposit any refund
  • Dependent child care information: name and address of who you paid and either the caretaker's SSN or other tax identification number
  • Both spouses to sign forms to e-file (electronically file) a joint tax return

A volunteer free tax return preparation site locator is available on the IRS website at  www.irs.gov/Individuals/Free-Tax-Return-Preparation-for-You-by-Volunteers.  Those with limited internet access can call 1-800-906-9887, or the 211 information line available in select counties.  

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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