The deadline to file state and federal income tax returns for 2015 is quickly approaching, as is your last opportunity to claim the new California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC). The good news? IRS-certified volunteers are ready to help you prepare and file your tax returns for free.
An earned income tax credit (EITC) is a refund meant to benefit working people who earn a low or moderate income. A refundable tax credit can lead you to receive a refund even if you owe no taxes.
For those at the lowest income levels, the federal EITC has long been considered a key anti-poverty tool. Still, eligible Californians leave about one billion dollars in federal EITC unclaimed each year. This happens in large part because many people at qualifying income levels do not file taxes.
You must file a tax return to take advantage of this tax benefit.
This year, California is offering an additional $380 million CalEITC aimed at workers living well below the federal poverty level. For these families, the additional funds can mean the difference between sending their children to school hungry and distracted or well-fed and prepared to learn. It can keep people from choosing between filling needed prescriptions and keeping their utilities turned on.
A family can get back as much as $6,242 through the federal EITC, while the CalEITC benefit can go as high as $2,653.
State Controller Betty Yee is working with tax agencies, local government officials, and community organizations educate people about CalEITC. They are also helping low- and moderate-income people prepare and file their taxes for free through the Internal Revenue Service’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program.
VITA volunteers help filers identify all credits for which they are eligible – including CalEITC and the federal EITC – and maximize their refunds. It is a safe and reliable option for people who have little experience in dealing with the tax system, or who do not file because they are wary of falling victim to fraudulent tax prep schemes.
VITA is available to people who earned less than $54,000 in 2015, are eligible to file a basic return, and have a social security card or individual taxpayer identification number for each person to be listed on the return.
The state and federal tax filing deadline is Monday, April 18, 2016, and many VITA sites will be open until the final day of tax season. VITA services are available in communities throughout the Bay Area.
For more information – or to find a local VITA site offering services in your language – visit http://irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep/ or contact Controller Yee’s office at (213) 833-6010.