Get more out of this Tax Season with EITC and VITA sites

For many adult learners, tax refunds like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) can provide some financial stability in an area of their lives where stability is often foreign. The problem is that a large portion of tax payers don’t know about these types of tax benefits while filing their tax returns. In fact, 25% of tax payers don’t claim the EITC, because they simply haven’t heard of such a benefit. One can only imagine that the percentage of adult learners who don’t claim this tax credit is even larger.

THE EITC, originally approved by Congress in 1975, is a tax benefit that reduces the tax burden for working people who earn low-to-moderate incomes. Its aim is to help working class families gain some financial ground, and it’s done just that. According to Heart of Florida United Way, 6.3 million individuals were lifted out of poverty with the help of the EITC in 2011. It is also credited with lifting more children out of poverty than any other federal program. If you qualified for the EITC last year but never claimed it, you can reclaim it retroactively this year for up to 3 years.

In order to qualify for this benefit, individuals must have worked during the past year and earned income, have a valid Social Security card or ITIN number for each family member, have joint tax-filing status if married, be between the ages of 25 and 65, and have U.S. citizenship or resident alien status all year or be a nonresident alien married to a qualifying individual. For specifics on what incomes qualify for the EITC, please visit http://www.hfuw.org/Earned_Income_Tax_Credit.php.

In addition, an eligible party’s income must be less a certain amount depending on the marital status and/or how many qualifying children are associated with said party. Finally, those who wish to receive this tax refund must have had residency in the U.S. for more than six months. In order to qualify, children must also have been residents for more than six months.

Another service that is relatively unknown to those who would benefit from it most is the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA). VITA sites are located throughout the state and are often multilingual, offering services in English, Spanish, and Creole. These sites provide completely free tax preparation for anyone, regardless of income and citizenship and residency status. Although intended for lower income families, any individual can visit a VITA site for help with their taxes.

If you and/or your adult learners choose to go to a free tax preparation site, you must bring all forms, including W-2s, and 1099s, information about any other income, information about all deductions/credits, a copy of last year’s tax return (if available), proof of account for direct deposit of refund, Social Security card or ITIN numbers for you, your dependents and/or spouse, and photo identification for yourself and your spouse. To find a VITA site near you, please visit http://www.hfuw.org/Earned_Income_Tax_Credit_-_Tax_Sites.php.

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