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Michigan Employers Can Help Workers Get Tax Assistance and Credits with PHI Resource

February 6, 2014

For the fifth year, PHI is offering Earn, Keep, Save MORE (EKSM), the online tax resource center, to help direct-care workers get the tax credits they are entitled to receive and also access free tax preparation assistance services.

The EKSM site, designed for direct-care workers and employers, provides:

  • information and resources that direct-care workers can use to take advantage of the state and federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
  • easy-to-access information on how to find a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site
  • a link to MyFreeTaxes.com — a free online tax preparation service and financial education site
  • information on resources, like Save to Win, to help workers save more of their refund

Long-term care employers can also use the site to download materials — paycheck stuffers, fact sheets — to educate their employees and make this a rewarding tax season.

“Long-term care employers can play a role in educating their staff about tax credits and savings opportunities that help them stretch their income,” said PHI Midwest Program and Policy Manager Tameshia Bridges Mansfield, who has been coordinating the EKSM efforts in Michigan since the program began.

Tax Credits Boost Income

EKSM hosts information on EITC and VITA sites available in Michigan. The EITC is a refundable tax credit for low- and moderate-income families and individuals.

The maximum federal EITC a family can receive is $6,044, depending on income and family size. Anyone eligible for a federal EITC automatically qualifies for a state EITC if their state offers it; more than half of states do. State tax credits range from 3 percent to 40 percent of the federal EITC.

Other States

EKSM is Michigan-based, but workers and employers from other states may also find relevant resources.

This year, the Michigan EITC is 6 percent of the federal EITC. Efforts by advocates are underway to restore the EITC amount to previous levels.

“Getting a large tax refund with the help of EITC can mean extra money to catch up on bills, buy a computer for the family, or open up a savings account,” Mansfield said. “Unfortunately, every year, many families do not claim the EITC they are entitled to — either because they don’t know about it or they don’t think they will be eligible because they do not owe any taxes.”

Free Tax Preparation Assistance

VITA sites provide free tax preparation assistance and are staffed by IRS-trained volunteers. They are sponsored by various community-based organizations that often offer workshops on saving and financial planning.

To contact a VITA site from outside of Michigan, visit the VITA site locator tool, or call the IRS at 800-906-9887. In Michigan, dial 2-1-1 or call 800-552-1183.

Families with an annual income below $50,000 are eligible for free tax preparation assistance at VITA sites through April 15.

Another resource, MyFreeTaxes.com helps people who do their taxes themselves to file both their state and federal taxes for free online.

New Savings Opportunities

SaveYourRefund is a way for people to save a portion of their tax refund when they file. Sponsored by the Doorway to Dreams Fund, SaveYourRefund promotes saving at tax time by offering weekly cash prizes for people who use IRS Form 8888 to split their refund and place a portion of it in a savings account or another approved savings mechanism.

Additionally this year, Michigan has launched Save to Win, a savings program with cash prizes for people who open accounts at participating Michigan credit unions. Each $25 deposit counts as an entry to win a monthly and annual cash prizes.

More information on EITC eligibility, as well as materials to help employers spread the word about EITC, VITA sites, and savings programs, are available on the Earn, Keep, Save MORE site.

— by the PHI Michigan Team

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