Tax credit vital to helping low-wage families pay the bills
What if we told you that the federal government helps 1 million working Ohio families, sends $2.3 billion into our local economies, and that you might be eligible for this help? The Earned Income Tax Credit does all that and more. Today is National EITC Awareness Day, which kicks off the tax season and reminds working families to claim this phenomenal benefit. The Earned Income Tax Credit is the nation’s most powerful anti-poverty program. Unfortunately, nearly one in five families who are eligible fail to claim the credit.
The EITC provides a much-needed income boost to working Ohio families. According to the 2016 Assets and Opportunities Scorecard, a staggering 44 percent of Ohioans don’t have enough cash savings to cover basic expenses for three months if they experience a sudden job loss or other loss of income. The scorecard shows that Ohio ranks in the bottom third in the nation when it comes to financial stability of its residents. The report also finds that nearly 30 percent of Ohio jobs are low wage. The EITC helps with all this.
The average Ohio family claiming the EITC received a refund of $2,406 in 2014. Paid tax preparers charge between $200 and $500 to file a family’s taxes so they can access their refund. Using free tax preparer services helps families keep more of what they earn. Ohio has a network of free tax preparer organizations to help families claim the credit:
- AARP Foundation Tax Aide Program assists low-income filers, especially those 60 or older
- The Volunteer Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs have IRS-trained and certified preparers. Local communities with a 211 information line also have information on VITA sites and families can schedule an appointment to get help.
- Myfreetaxes.com is a collaboration of United Way Worldwide and H&R Block to offer free, online tax preparation.
We cheered late last year when our own U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown led efforts to ensure that temporary expansions to the EITC and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) were made permanent. This change helps 356,000 Ohioans, including 172,000 children.
This was a major win for working families. The federal EITC should now be expanded to low-wage earners without children, or whose children don’t live with them. These Ohio workers receive little or nothing from the EITC. Also, Ohio has one of the weakest state EITCs in the nation. Read here how to fix it.
But making the federal and state EITCs perfect is a fight for another day. For now, make this National EITC Awareness Day count by ensuring working families claim the credit and get their taxes filed through a free-preparer option. And speak out for policies that ensure working families can succeed.