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IRS pushing EITC, tax prep help

Tax time looms, and the Internal Revenue Service wants you to keep all the money you can.

     Not up to expectations? Maybe.

     But that’s the message regional IRS media representative Dee Stepter has been spreading by encouraging taxpayers to see if they qualify for the earned income tax credit (EITC).

     “The EITC provides a financial boost for millions of hard-working Americans. But people can easily overlook this important credit, especially if their financial situation has changed,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman in a press release Stepter provided. “The IRS reminds taxpayers to look into this valuable credit to see if they qualify.”

     With less than a month before the deadline to file tax returns, taxpayers should begin investigating soon.

     The EITC is intended for low and moderate-income workers. Those with no children can qualify for up to $464 of tax credits and to $5,751 in credit is available those with three or more qualifying children.

     In Lincoln County, the average EITC was $2,533 in 2011, according to data provided by the IRS. In Lincoln County, 3,934 returns claimed the EITC for a countywide total of $9,966,757 in credits.

     Throughout the state of Mississippi, the average EITC was $2,610.

     Unlike some other IRS credits, the EITC is refundable.

     “Although an estimated four out of five eligible workers and families get the credit, one in five still miss out on it, either because they don’t claim it, or don’t file a return at all,” said an IRS press release.

     An EITC assistant located on the IRS website can help taxpayers determine whether they qualify for an EITC and if so, estimate how much of a refund they could receive.

     To qualify, a married couple filing jointly with three or more qualifying children cannot earn more than $49,078 annually. A single person with three or more qualifying children cannot earn more than $43,998 annually.

     The EITC website of the IRS further lists the maximum allowable income levels for two children, one child and no children.

     There are several other regulations to bear in mind. Persons filing for an EITC must be at least 25, but less than 65. To claim a child for an EITC, the child must be younger than 19 or younger than 24 and be a full-time student.

     Stepter also provided a press release describing the IRS attempts to help taxpayers locate free help with their tax returns. Through the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, taxpayers with an annual income of $50,000 or less can get free help with preparing their tax returns.

     According to an IRS press release, “Taxpayers can search the word “VITA” in IRS.gov and click on the option ‘Free Tax Return Preparation For You by Volunteers,’ followed by ‘Find a VITA site near you’ to access the tool.”

     By entering a zip code, taxpayers can located a VITA site near them.

     According to the locator tool, there are no volunteer prep sites in Lincoln County. The nearest is located in Hazlehurst at the AJFC Community Action Agency. There are also volunteer sites at the AJFC Community Action Agency in Monticello and the Southwest MS Community Action Agency in McComb.