Free Tax Program Urges Families to Resist Early Return Trap
Millions in tax credits go unclaimed in Contra Costa every year
January 17, 2008
Every tax season many hardworking people make the same costly choice. They pay a commercial tax preparation company to do their taxes when they could have had them done for free and gotten more money back.
The annual Contra Costa Earn It! Keep It! Save It! (EKS) free tax preparation program helps families and individuals claim tax refunds and access asset development resources. Millions of dollars in credits go unclaimed in Contra Costa County every year, said EKS Campaign Manager Lloyd Madden.
"Many people are unaware of the program and we're trying to reach out to people who qualify in all areas of Contra Costa County. Tax refunds can make a huge difference for folks who often are struggling to make ends meet," Madden said.
To qualify for EKS, household incomes must have been less than $42,000 in 2007. The program runs Jan. 22 through April 15 at locations throughout the Bay Area. (For site locations call 1-800-358-8832 or visit cchealth.org. A podcast about EKS by Contra Costa Health Services Director William Walker also is available at cchealth.org)
Last tax season, EKS program helped 2,148 low to moderate-income families and individuals in Contra Costa receive more than $2.4 million in total tax refunds and credits, Madden said. But as much as $15 million in federal Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) and Child Tax Credits (CTC) went unclaimed in Contra Costa in 2002, according to the Internal Revenue Service. Residents in Richmond lost out on $2.7 million, Pittsburg $2.3 million, Concord $2 million, San Pablo $1.6 million, Martinez $546,000 and Pleasant Hill $291,000.
EITC can amount to up to $4,700 per family with two or more qualifying children. CTC provides up to $1,000 for each dependent under 17, Madden said.
Sponsored by Contra Costa Family Economic Security Partnership (FESP), the EKS program is working to increase awareness about these tax credits. FESP is a nonprofit, public and private collaboration dedicated to helping low-income Contra Costa residents increase their financial knowledge, well-being and assets, said Sean Casey, FESP chair and Executive Director of First 5 Contra Costa.
"The Earn It! Keep It! Save It! program helps to provide a financial boost to residents and the local economy. We want our hardworking residents to keep more of their money now, as well as build up their financial futures," Casey said.
FESP has 16 strategic partners including Contra Costa County Employment and Human Services, Contra Costa Health Services, United Way of the Bay Area, First 5 Contra Costa, the Community Housing Development Corporation of North Richmond (CHDC), the IRS, AARP, Contra Costa, Diablo Valley and Los Medanos community colleges, East Bay Works, the Workforce Investment Board and the East Bay Community Foundation.
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