County to Help Families File Taxes for Free

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January 24, 2013 | 1:17pm

If you are a low-income family or individual and pay to have your income taxes prepared, put your wallet away. Save your money. The County can file them for you for free.

The County and its partner organizations today announced the launch of the annual Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Campaign to help low-income families and individuals file taxes free of charge and claim tax credits.           

 “We launched this campaign in 2003 because too many residents were missing this opportunity to claim their Earned Income Tax Credit,” said Chairman Greg Cox, County Board of Supervisors. “With the help of 2-1-1 San Diego and our volunteers, people will be able to keep more of their income.”

 From Jan. 30 through April 15, about 400 volunteers will help low-income residents prepare and file taxes electronically at more than 100 locations throughout the region. Residents can call 2-1-1 to make an appointment at a location near them.

The tax preparation services are part of the EITC campaign, which the County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) launched to help residents take advantage of the federal government’s largest assistance program to support low-income families. 

Individuals and families who worked in 2012 and earned less than $50,300 could qualify for as much as $5,891 in EITC tax credit. Residents must file a tax return to be eligible.

The EITC campaign was launched in partnership with United Way, the IRS, AARP, local colleges and universities, and many other organizations. In addition, student interns and volunteers will screen families to determine if they may qualify for CalFresh benefits (formerly known as food stamps).

About $70 million EITC dollars go unclaimed each year by San Diego County low-income residents.

Established in 1975, EITC is a federal program designed to help low-income families and individuals out of poverty by helping them keep more of their income. The IRS estimates that 20 to 25 percent of eligible individuals don’t claim the credit. Since the EITC campaign began in 2003, more than $55 million EITC dollars have been returned to San Diego County families and the local economy.

In 2012, more than 46,000 federal and state returns were filed through the County’s EITC campaign, bringing a total of $48 million to working families and the local economy. More than $10 million were EITC dollars.

“Although the economy shows signs of improving, we know low-income families and individuals continue to struggle to make ends meet,” said Nick Macchione, director of HHSA. “Getting access to these funds is simple. All you have to do is file an income tax return, which you can do for free at dozens of sites throughout the county.”

Furthermore, students from San Diego State University, Cal State San Marcos and Southwestern College will participate in the Thrive San Diego component of the EITC campaign. Last year, students screened 1,343 families and individuals for CalFresh eligibility; more than 900 were potentially qualified to receive benefits. Residents can also apply for CalFresh via phone by calling 2-1-1 San Diego.

The EITC Campaign and Thrive San Diego are part of Live Well, San Diego!, the County’s ongoing initiative to improve the health and quality of life of local residents and help them to become self-sufficient.