Who Takes Credit? Earned Income Tax Recipients in Cleveland, 2006

September 21, 2006

More working families in Cuyahoga County received free tax preparation at volunteer income tax assistance (VITA) sites in 2006 than in any previous year. The Cuyahoga EITC Coalition filed more than 3,444 tax returns with nearly half qualifying for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The Coalition returned more than $4.2 million in total refunds to working families, allowing them to keep their tax return dollars rather than losing money to paid preparers. Such fees can cost more than $300 for a $1500 credit according to the Brookings Institution. This is a 50% increase in the number of returns and more than 60% increase in the amount refunded to families from last year.

Policy Matters Ohio surveyed more than 1,000 VITA site filers finding:

– Filers said they would use their refunds toward basic needs purchases in the community such as household bills (47%), savings (22%), housing (19%), food (17%), and clothing (12%).

– More than 20% of filers this year reported getting their taxes done at a paid preparer last year and 45% had done so in previous years.

– Roughly 65% of those who received free tax preparation did not report receiving public assistance like Medicaid (13%) or Unemployment Insurance (2%).

– Most respondents said that the service being free motivated them to use a VITA site.

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