PLATTSBURGH - The Earned Income Tax Credit is a credit many are unaware they qualify for, and, as a result, don't file for.
John C. Bernardi, executive director of the United Way of the Adirondack Region, was joined recently by members of the Clinton and Essex County Earned Income Tax Credit Coalition to raise awareness of the federal tax credit, which is available to assist low-income families and individuals.
"The Earned Income Tax Credit is a tremendous service and a great opportunity for people to get a tax return," said Bernardi, adding one in four taxpayers is unaware they are eligible for the credit, which could amount to as much as $5,666.
According to information from the Internal Revenue Service, a taxpayer with three or more qualifying children and an earned income of no more than $43,352 or $48,362 if married filing jointly, would be eligible. A taxpayer with two qualifying children must have an earned income of no more than $40,363 or $45,373 if married filing jointly. Those with one qualifying child may earn as much as $35,535 or $40,545 if married filing jointly.
Those without children are also eligible for the credit under certain restrictions. Taxpayers ages 25-65 are eligible if they have an earned income not greater than $13,460 for an individual or $18,470 for those married filing jointly.
"It's a great opportunity to put money in the pockets of people who need it most, which in turn, helps the economy grow," Bernardi said of the tax credit.
When it comes tax returns, one of the easiest ways to file, said Bernardi, is through free tax preparation sites hosted by the coalition in the two-county region. The sites are operated by trained volunteers, offering electronic filing for faster refunds, said Bernardi. Another benefit of visiting a coalition-approved site, he added, is the educational component available to those who file. Coalition members like Kathleen A. Eppler with Champlain National Bank and Jody Carpenter with UFirst Federal Credit Union, are able to provide information about budgeting, saving and investing the money people receive from their tax returns.
"We've found a lot of times people who have never belonged to a financial institution," said Carpenter. "We want them to see they can trust a financial institution and that we can give them the information and the tools they need so they can do more with their money."
"We've even seen people who have gotten themselves into a financial situation where they're concerned about having anything to put into a savings or checking account," said Eppler. "We can help educate them to get out of that situation and start building credit and building a savings. That's why we're here."
For more information about the EITC or a list of tax preparation sites offered by coalition volunteers, call 335-8599 or dial 2-1-1. More information about the EITC may also be found on the IRS Web site, www.irs.gov.