Low-income workers can get free help collecting tax refunds
For release January 20, 2005
A free program to help low to moderate-income residents in Contra Costa apply for millions of dollars in unclaimed tax refunds starts January 22 and runs through April 15. As much as $15 million in federal Earned Income Tax and Child Care credits may be available in Contra Costa County this year, according to the Internal Revenue Service.
Families and individuals who earned less than $36,000 in 2004 may qualify for the tax credits and can receive free tax preparation services through Earn It! Keep It! Save It! Contra Costa, an award-winning program sponsored by the Family Economic Security Partnership (FESP).
Last year, the program helped 1,300 families or individuals collect $1,350,000 in tax credits, averaging about $1,000 per return, said program manager Lloyd Madden. He urges individuals to file a tax return even if they don't think they earned enough money to be required to do so. If they don't file, they may miss out on a tax refund, he said.
"This is the second year of our countywide effort and we hope to help low-income workers recover more than $1.5 million this time," Madden said. "Without this campaign and public awareness, low-income families might miss out on an opportunity to get back some of their hard-earned money."
The Earned Income Tax Credit is the federal government's largest work incentive program. Qualifying taxpayers can receive up to $4,300 in tax refunds. People with children also may receive a child tax credit of up to $1,000 per child under the age of 17.
Specially trained volunteers will provide the tax preparation services at 12 Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites throughout the county. Last year, more than 150 people volunteered. People are still being recruited for this year's program and can receive training online. The deadline is January 31. To volunteer, visit: cchealth.org/services/tax/ or call Paul Ward at 925-313-1623.
The sites will be open weekdays, evenings and Saturdays. Locations include Oakley, Antioch, Pittsburg, Bay Point, Concord, Martinez, Richmond, San Pablo and Rodeo. The first site opens January 22 at Community Heritage Senior Housing in Richmond. Other locations open in February. Translators in several languages will be available at some sites.
For information on specific site locations, hours of operation and what documents people need to bring, visit: cchealth.org or call 800-358-8832. To learn more about Earn It! Keep It! Save It!, watch county television's Get Ready, Get Healthy at 7:30 p.m. January 24, 3:30 p.m. January 27, 7:30 p.m. January 31 and 3:30 p.m. February 3. Contra Costa Television is channel 27 on most cable systems, channel 19 on Comcast and 32 on Astound Cable.
FESP is a public, private and nonprofit collaboration that includes the Contra Costa Employment and Human Services Department, Contra Costa Health Services, United Way of the Bay Area, First Five Contra Costa, IRS, RichmondWORKS/City of Richmond and East Bay Community Foundation.
The partnership will receive the "Innovations in Human Services Award" from the National Association of County Human Services Administrators for the tax program. The award will be presented at the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors meeting at 9:30 a.m. January 25.
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