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Online Tax Tool Helps Direct-Care Workers

January 16, 2013

PHI is kicking off its fourth year of 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.

EKSM, 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 

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.

“We are reaching out to long-term care employers, both in Michigan and nationally, to make sure they know they can be a resource to their staff.” said PHI Senior Workforce Advocate Tameshia Bridges, 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 and across the country. The EITC is a refundable tax credit for low- and moderate-income families and individuals.

The maximum federal EITC a family can receive is $5,891 — 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.

This year, the Michigan EITC has been reduced from 20 percent of the federal EITC to 6 percent. Efforts by advocates are underway to restore the EITC amount.

“We fear that this year some direct-care workers will have to pay additional income taxes rather than getting a refund because of the reduction in the state’s EITC and other credits for working families,” said PHI Midwest Director Hollis Turnham.

“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,” Bridges 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.

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

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

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

— by the PHI Policy Team

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