PLATTSBURGH - The federal government may have money waiting for you.
According to Kathy L. McNulty, a representative of the Internal Revenue Service, the federal Earned Income Tax Credit is a credit which many are unaware they qualify for, and, as a result, don't file for, she said.
McNulty was joined by members of the Clinton and Essex County Earned Income Tax Credit Coalition Jan. 29 in recognition of the government's annual Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day. The coalition has been working with the IRS since 2003 to inform taxpayers of the credit, which is available to assist low-income families and individuals.
"The IRS knows that across the country there are only approximately 75 percent of people eligible for the credit that file for it and claim it on their tax return," said McNulty. "So, our efforts are to get the word out to those additional 25 percent that there may be a lot of dollars out there for you if you qualify."
John C. Bernardi, executive director of the United Way of Clinton and Essex Counties Inc., one of the member organizations of the coalition, said it's important for the coalition to continue getting the word out.
"People may be missing out on a federal refund of up to $5,657 because they are not aware of the Earned Income Tax Credit," stated Bernardi. "Our coalition, in partnership with the Franklin County coalition, is working hard to promote the service and reach eligible people and families throughout the region."
McNulty said the 2009 income guidelines allow for slightly more income than in previous years and, with that, the amount available for the EITC has increased , too.
"Each year, that income threshold goes up a little bit," she said.
According to information from the IRS, a taxpayer with three or more qualifying children must have an earned income of no more than $43,279 or $48,279 if married filing jointly. A taxpayer with two qualifying children must have an earned income of no more than $40,295 or $45,295 if married filing jointly. Those with one qualifying child may earn as much as $35,463 or $40,463 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 $13,440 for an individual or $18,440 for those married filing jointly.
One of the most common misconceptions about the EITC is people tend to think their income "needs to be lower than it truly needs to be," said McNulty.
"Some people also think their income is so low that they don't need to file an income tax return. That's a real big mistake because if you qualify and you don't file, you're not going to get this credit," she said. "It's important you do file."
McNulty said an easy way to file is through free tax preparation sites hosted by the Clinton and Essex County Earned Income Tax Credit Coalition in the two-county region. The sites are operated by trained volunteers, she said, and offer electronic filing for faster refunds.
In Clinton County, tax preparation is available on a walk-in basis only at the Senior Citizens Council of Clinton County senior center, 5139 N. Catherine St., Plattsburgh. During the month of February, the site is open Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., and Wednesday and Thursday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. The site will be closed Monday, Feb. 15, in observance of Presidents Day. Hours will be limited beginning in March.
In Essex County, tax preparation is offered at OneWorkSource, 103 Hand Ave., Elizabethtown; Lake Placid Public Library, 2471 Main St., Lake Placid; and St. Patrick's Parish Center, 17 St. Patrick Place, and Sherman Free Library, 20 Church St., both in Port Henry.
All sites in Essex County, with the exception of Lake Placid Public Library, require appointments by calling 1-800-675-2668 in advance. Appointments are required at the Lake Placid Public Library by calling 523-3200.
Tax preparation at sites in both counties will be offered until Thursday, April 15.
In addition to the United Way of Clinton and Essex Counties, the coalition consists of representatives from OneWorkSource, Adirondack Community Action Programs, Senior Citizens Council of Clinton County, Family Welcome Center of CVES, Cornell Cooperative Extension, UFirst Federal Credit Union, Joint Council for Economic Opportunity of Clinton and Franklin Counties, American Association of Retired Persons, and the Internal Revenue Service. The coalition also includes representation from the Office for the Aging, Department of Social Services, and Retired and Senior Volunteer Program in both Clinton and Essex counties.
For more information about the EITC or tax preparation offered by coalition volunteers, call 335-8599. More information about the EITC may also be found on the IRS Web site, www.irs.gov.