The Internal Revenue Service has joined partners nationwide in an outreach campaign to ensure that millions of low- and moderate-income workers get the Earned Income Tax Credit they deserve.
Local officials and community organizations across the country are holding news conferences and outreach events highlighting the benefits of this key work incentive for individuals and families who earned $51,567 or less last year. An estimated four out of five eligible workers and families get the credit, but millions miss it annually either because they don’t claim it when filing or don’t file a tax return at all.
The EITC varies depending on income, family size and filing status. The IRS has upgraded the interactive EITC Assistant, at www.irs.gov/eitc, to better help taxpayers and tax preparers. People can answer a few questions about income, family size and filing status, among other things. The EITC Assistant will help determine eligibility and will figure an estimated EITC refund. Filers can even get a printout explaining why they do or do not qualify. In Delaware, 71,000 eligible workers and families received $161 million in EITC with an average EITC amount of $2,257.
Workers, self-employed people and farmers who earned $51,567 or less last year could receive larger refunds if they qualify for the EITC. Unlike most deductions and credits, the EITC is refundable. In other words, those eligible may get a refund from the IRS even if they owe no tax.
How to claim the EITC
To get the EITC, workers must file a tax return, even if they are not required to file, and specifically claim the credit. Free tax help is available. Those eligible for the EITC have free options:
Free File on IRS.gov: Free brand-name tax software walks people through a question-and-answer format to help them prepare their returns and claim every credit and deduction for which they are eligible.
Free File using Free File Fillable Forms: This option, designed for taxpayers comfortable preparing their own returns, allows people to file electronically for free using online versions of IRS paper forms.
Free tax-preparation sites: EITC-eligible workers can seek free tax preparation at thousands of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly sites. To locate the nearest site, taxpayers can search www.IRS.gov or call the IRS at 800-906-9887.
The IRS reminds taxpayers that even though most refunds are issued in less than 21 days, many factors can affect how long it takes to issue a particular refund. Some returns require additional review, causing it to take longer to process any related refunds. Taxpayers can track the status of their refund with the “Where’s My Refund?” tool available on IRS.gov.
Get it right: avoid errors
Taxpayers are responsible for the accuracy of their tax return regardless of who prepares it. The rules for EITC are complicated. The IRS urges taxpayers to seek help if they are unsure of their eligibility.
Some common EITC errors are claiming a child who does not meet the relationship, age or residency tests; filing as "single" or "head of household" when married; over- or under-reporting of income and/or expenses to qualify for or maximize EITC; missing Social Security numbers or Social Security number and last name mismatches for both taxpayers and children.
More than half of EITC claims are prepared by tax professionals, and people should choose trustworthy assistance. To help ensure that only those eligible get the credit and that everyone who is eligible gets the right amount, the IRS requires paid preparers to file Form 8867, Paid Preparer's Earned Income Credit Checklist, with any federal tax return claiming the EITC.
The IRS continues to look for ways to reduce these errors. Taxpayers should reply promptly to any letter from the IRS requesting additional information about EITC. If taxpayers need assistance or have questions, they should call the number included in the IRS letter.