The News Journal (Delaware)
By: Rep. John Carney and The Rev. Clifford Johnson
January 29, 2012
Too many taxpayers fail to claim credit they're eligible for
It's only January, but tax season will be here in a flash. Preparing taxes can be confusing and complicated, with dozens of different deductions and credits to review before filing. One of the biggest credits available is the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and each year, thousands of hardworking families in Delaware lose money they are entitled to because they fail to take advantage of it.
The EITC helps working families keep more of what they earn, while strengthening the local economy. Research shows that most often families use their EITC refunds to put food on the table, provide school supplies for their children, or make needed repairs to their home or car.
In Delaware last year, nearly 70,000 people from across the state claimed the EITC on their federal tax returns. They received an average refund of just over $2,100. In total, the EITC brought more than $147 million back to Delaware families. This is money that goes right back into the Delaware economy.
Unfortunately, as many as 20 percent of eligible families in Delaware do not file for the Earned Income Tax Credit. For some Delaware families, with a total household income of up to $49,078, the EITC could put more than $5,700 back into their pockets.
The State of Delaware has also enacted its own EITC for state taxes that could return between 2.2 percent and 5.95 percent to low and moderate income families.
To help Delawareans file their taxes and, if eligible, claim the Earned Income Tax Credit, Nehemiah Gateway Community Development Corporation (CDC) and its partner organizations operate many Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites throughout the state. These VITA locations provide free tax help and tax return preparation by IRS-trained volunteers. They are located at convenient places, such as community centers, churches, libraries, and schools.
Since Nehemiah Gateway CDC began providing free tax assistance in 2000, it has helped file more than 87,000 tax returns for free, bringing more than $131 million in tax refunds back to the pockets of hard-working Delaware taxpayers.
But the campaign is not just about helping Delaware taxpayers get refunds. It's about giving working families access to important financial information and products so that their tax refunds are put to the best possible use.
Many nonprofit organizations in Delaware offer financial education and employment-related programs that provide families the information they need to make the most of their money and improve their economic situation.
For example, Nehemiah Gateway CDC often helps people use their tax refund to start a savings program with an Individual Development Account or US Savings Bonds.
These organizations have helped build strong partnerships with the United Way of Delaware, the Delaware IRS office, Citi and other financial institutions, AARP, Delaware's colleges and universities, nonprofit organizations, and many others throughout the community. Together, they are providing Delaware families with the financial literacy and tools they need to make ends meet and plan for the future.
The EITC and the financial tools offered by Nehemiah Gateway CDC and many others in our community are pathways to help working families provide for themselves. In these challenging economic times, it is our hope that every Delawarean that qualifies for the EITC not only claims it, but learns how to best put that money to use. In many cases, it can make the difference between getting by and getting ahead.
For more information about the Earned Income Tax Credit or free tax preparation assistance, please call the Delaware Helpline at 211 or visit www.eitcdelaware.net.
John Carney is the United States Representative from Delaware. Rev. Dr. Clifford Johnson is the Board President of Nehemiah Gateway CDC and pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church.