Tax credit provides relief
But many eligible households are not taking advantage of it
Filling out this year’s tax return may be a little less painful for some filers, thanks to the Earned Income Tax Credit. Aimed at low- to moderate-income working people, the EITC is a federal income tax credit that can help provide for basic living needs and contributes back to the local economy.
Oregon’s participation rate ranked third worst in nation
Originating in the Reagan era, the EITC was implemented as an anti-poverty tool and provides a refund back to qualifying households with children, in proportion to the income earned.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that many eligible households in Oregon are not taking advantage of the credit. In fact, Oregon’s participation rate ranked third worst among all states and the District of Columbia. Only Colorado and Washington D.C. performed worse in terms of using the credit.
About 88,000 Oregon working families who were eligible for the EITC did not claim it in 2013, according to the Oregon Center for Public Policy. The Center conservatively estimates that these families left a total of $130 million in federal EITC dollars on the table that year.
The United Community Action Network, which serves Douglas and Josephine counties, is one of the organizations in Oregon and Northern California working to increase the number of people claiming the credit.
UCAN is tackling the issue on several fronts. Through its RSVP program, AARP’s volunteer tax aides help people apply for the tax credit. Many don’t know how to apply or are unaware they are eligible.
Spreading the word is also essential. UCAN is planning on including an informational flier with deliveries via their Meals on Wheels program, and placed in boxes picked up at the food banks they operate in both counties.
In an effort to better understand why people are not claiming the credit, UCAN is developing a survey card to distribute to its clients. “We are also looking into the future and developing partners in each county for future education and outreach,” says Mike Fieldman, UCAN’s executive director. “We are trying to get the good hard data that will tell us where we need to spend our time to make sure community members get what is, in a sense, free money.
“We’re just excited to see if we can make a dent in our community.”
Your organization can help raise awareness about the EITC by posting information on your website, Facebook page, Twitter and other social channels. Below are links to a social media campaign and to the IRS web page, which has EITC information and more links to marketing and communication materials.