Bridgeport – The Greater Bridgeport Family Economic Security Coalition will kick off the 2013 tax season with a press conference this Friday, January 25, at 11 am at FSW in Bridgeport.
Friday marks Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day (EITC), to educate people about the federal and state credits designed to pull working Americans out of poverty. Coalition members will be joined by Mayor Bill Finch of Bridgeport, Ron Peruzzi, Senior Tax Specialist IRS, and Cathy DeCesare, Senior Vice President, United Way of Coastal Fairfield County to educate the public about a tax credit that could mean as much as $5,891 in extra federal income tax refunds for low-income working families. The group is using the annual Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day (EITC) to raise awareness of the federal and state credits designed to pull working Americans out of poverty.
A recently published report by Connecticut Association for Human Services (CAHS) and Connecticut Voices stated that in 2011 more than 15,703 households in Bridgeport received on average $689 in state EITC to boost their family income. Those receiving the EITC already pay a significant amount in federal, state, and local taxes. The refundable credit frequently helps families cover basic household expenses and offers a chance to put some money into savings. Low-wage individuals must be working in order to qualify for the federal and state credit.
To help families looking to save their tax refund for a rainy day or unforeseen expenses, CAHS is encouraging tax filers at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites to direct deposit a portion of their refund in savings and a portion in checking. If the tax filer does not have a traditional bank account they are coached on the benefits of safe guarding their money in a local bank.
“VITA is more than just free tax preparation,” said James Horan, Executive Director of CAHS, an organization that helps to coordinate the VITA campaign across the state. “It ensures that working families have access to valuable tax credits without having to pay high fees. In addition, VITA connects families to other free services that provide them with the tools to leverage those tax refunds into long-lasting financial stability.”
Thirteen free VITA tax centers in Greater Bridgeport and Norwalk are set to open next week. In 2012, VITA centers in Bridgeport, Stratford, and Norwalk together prepared over 3,000 tax returns, saving taxpayers an estimated $477,000 in tax preparation fees and returning over $5 million in tax refunds to local families.
“We want to see families’ financial and home stability situation improve and this free tax prep program is a great resource. Not only do families save on having their taxes done but credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit provide savings for them to begin getting back on their feet and planning for the future,” stated Merle Berke-Schlessel, President & CEO, United Way of Coastal Fairfield County.
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, part of a nationwide initiative, offers families a free and easy way to access refunds and tax credits. VITA provides free federal and state tax return preparation to households earning less than $51,000 per year. Taxes are prepared by IRS-certified volunteer tax preparers at many convenient locations throughout the region.
Among the most significant victories in the recent “fiscal cliff” agreement by Congress was the protection of key tax credits for working families, including the EITC and the Child Tax Credit (CTC), which VITA volunteers can help taxpayers maximize. Several critical but expiring improvements in these credits were extended for five years, helping to shield 15.7 million families from an average loss of about $843 of assistance per household.
Residents can call 2-1-1 or visit www.211ct.org to find the closest location. For more information about federal or state EITC eligibility, please visit www.irs.gov or www.ct.gov/drs/eitc.
This year’s VITA campaign is made possible through the generous support of the following funders: IRS, the United Way of Coastal Fairfield County, Wells Fargo, and Citigroup.
About the Connecticut Association for Human Services: The Connecticut Association for Human Services (CAHS) uniquely combines outreach into working communities at the neighborhood level with broad-based policy work at the state and federal level. Founded in 1910, CAHS combines research and advocacy to empower and equip families to build a secure economic future. For more information visit www.cahs.org.
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