S. E. Williams
As tax season moves into full swing it is more important than ever to spread the word regarding California’s Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC)—available for the first time this year. CalEITC is a cash back tax credit for low to moderate-income working households in California.
Every year, millions of Californians claim billions of dollars through the federal Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC). Over the years, EITC claimed by California residents have provided a substantial amount of dollars that not only benefited working families but the state’s economy by injecting more money into the economy.
Research has shown however, as many as one out of every five Californians eligible to claim the EITC overlooked this credit when filing their federal tax returns. Based on 2009 results, it is estimated as many as 800,000 Californians fail to claim $1.2 billion in EITC refunds this year.
Many in the state are working to assure that every eligible Californian who has earned it, knows about it, and files a tax return to claim it. Simultaneously, they are working to expand the number of Californians who participate in the federal EITC program.
The foundation that initiated the CalEITC4Me campaign, Golden State Opportunity, is supporting a number of community organizations around the state to help spread the word about CalEITC and promote the federal tax credit as well.
In addition to educating clients about CalEITC, organizations are providing free tax preparation services through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. VITA offers free tax help to anyone whose adjusted gross income was less than $54,000 in 2015.
One such organization, the United Way of Kern County, is doing outstanding outreach by spreading the word about CalEITC across the Central Valley. When asked about its outreach efforts, the agency’s VITA Program Coordinator, M. Nataly Santamaria explained, “We’ve held various outreach events such as informational tables, tax workshops, parent resource centers and fairs.”
For clients who arrive at the center to have their taxes prepared and are not aware of CalEITC when they arrive, Santamaria said, “It seems to be easier to explain to them [about CalEITC] once the return has been prepared, because we have numbers to show.”
Many Californians may qualify for CalEITC, the federal EITC or both. For example, an individual with no children may qualify for CalEITC if their income is up to $6,580; individuals with no children can earn up to $14,820 and qualify for the federal EITC. A family with two or more children may qualify for the CalEITC if their income is below $13,870; a family with three or more children may qualify for the federal EITC with an income up to $53,267.
“It is very important clients at least know it exists so they can ask their tax preparer about it in order to find out if they qualify,” Santamaria concluded.
Beyond CalEITC outreach efforts in the Central Valley of California, CalEITC4Me educational outreach efforts are happening all over the state. Residents of the greater Los Angeles area will have an additional opportunity to have their questions about the tax credit answered in person and get their taxes filed for free during CalEITC4Me’s Free Tax Prep and Resource Fair on Saturday, March 19th between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. at the Puente Learning Center, 501 South Boyle Avenue, Los Angeles.
Not only will participants be able to get their questions answered, they will be able to get free help with their taxes and see what tax credits will get them the most money back this year. It is important to bring these documents if you need tax preparation assistance: proof of income including W-2s (and 1099 for federal EITC only); documentation of deductible expenses; a form of government identification; Social Security Card for each family member; account and routing numbers for checking or savings accounts for direct deposit and a faster refund; Health Insurance Marketplace Statement (1095- A, B, and/or C); and a copy of 2014 tax return, if available. If you plan to attend the event you can make your free tax preparation appointment by calling: (323) 604-1950.
To check for CalEITC eligibility visit caleitc4me.org/know-it/. To determine if you are eligible for the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit visit caleitc4me.org/federal-earned-income-tax-credit/. Use the CalEITC4Me Calculator at caleitc4me.org/earn-in to estimate your EITC amount. Even if you do not personally qualify, you can still help spread the word about CalEITC to your family, neighbors and friends— encourage them to visit CalEITC4Me.org.