Campaign encourages people to seek tax credit
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02/04/08 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Monday | Listen to this entire show:

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Millions of low- and middle-income people are eligible for the earned income tax credit of up to $4,700.

A group called the Prosperity Campaign held a press conference and luncheon in Tampa today to draw attention to programs that encourage more people to apply for the tax rebates owed to them by the government.

Anika Coney is program coordinator for the Prosperity Campaign of Hillsborough County, an outreach and education awareness program.

“To ensure that individuals and families within Hillsborough County have free access and they know where to go to claim their full … share of the earned income tax credit. In addition this year, we’re excited about the free 27 tax prep locations that we have all across Hillsborough County.”

Coney said that anyone earning less than $40,000 per year can use their free tax preparations services and there are even some locations serving individuals with incomes up to $54,000.

“This year individuals and families who earn less than $39,783 may qualify for the earned income tax credit, and that could be a tax credit up to at least $4,700. Again with the earned income tax credit, it’s based upon three criteria: marital status, number of dependents, and also the income level,” Coney said.

The credit is the largest antipoverty program in the United States, according to Marcia Bailey, a taxpayer consultant with the Internal Revenue Service. She said $168-million came back into Hillsborough County last year in EITC refunds.

“We have lifted five million families out of poverty last year, and 6.2 million children. Anyone can receive the tax credit as long as they meet the income requirements and just a couple other requirements that we have. It can be single people, married people, people with children, people without children, it can also be legal workers in this country who are not U.S. citizens but are legally in this country.”

People with children are eligible as are individuals from 25 to 65 years of age who have no children.

Marlina McClure is with the Tampa Bay Workforce Alliance and is a co-chair of the Prosperity Campaign of Hillsborough County.

“Every year there are millions of dollars that go unclaimed both in Hillsborough County and nationally, and this campaign is built around trying to get individuals who are qualified to receive that earned income tax credit to the right location for a free tax preparation to get up to four thousand dollars.”

McClure said that people who haven’t claimed the tax credit in the past could be eligible for even more money back.

“If you are in need we’re going to be there for you. So, we’re trying not to put a hard cap to it, but if you’re in need we want you to be able to receive those dollars so you can put them back into the community. … If you qualify, make sure you get your earned income tax credit. And you can get it for up to three years. So if you haven’t received it within the past three years, you can get up to twelve thousand dollars back.”

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor made a brief appearance to say that a program like the EITC is especially important during these rough economic times.

Christine Long is Senior Director of Programs at Metropolitan Ministries, a partner in the Prosperity Campaign. Long spoke about a day laborer who was homeless and lived under a bridge. He received more than $7,000 in income tax returns and now is living in an apartment.

“We usually have about a hundred families a day who come in for our regular outreach services and lots of those need help with taxes and so we’ve been able to offer that service right here on site when they come for other assistance like food or clothing assistance, we’re able to help them with tax assistance also.

To find out where you can get your tax returns prepared for free if you qualify, visit prosperityofhillsborough.com or call 211.

Photo credit: Seán Kinane/WMNF

Learn more:

Prosperity Campaign of Hillsborough County

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