Fewer than 60 percent of adults surveyed nationally are familiar with EITC
BOSTON — United Way is partnering with the City of Boston and leading community-based organizations to offer free tax preparation services to eligible taxpayers from now through April 15. The effort is aimed at raising awareness among eligible filers that they can receive the free services along with help maximizing the refunds and credits they have earned, such as the often-unclaimed Earned Income Tax Credit. Last year this partnership helped 2,177 individuals file returns and claim nearly $3.8 million in Earned Income tax Credits.
A filer who is married, filing jointly, with three children can make as much as $53,267 and be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Eligibility for the EITC varies by marital status and number of dependents claimed. The free tax preparation services will be offered at United Way’s Financial Stability Center locations in Chelsea, Lawrence, Quincy and the Downtown and Roxbury neighborhoods of Boston. According to results of a recent phone survey by United Way Worldwide, fewer than 60 percent of the 1,000 adults surveyed said they are familiar with the Earned Income Tax Credit.
According to the IRS, 404,000 individuals in Massachusetts claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit in 2014. The IRS estimates that 20% of eligible taxpayers in Massachusetts do not claim the credit, effectively leaving the refund they earned on the government’s table instead of their own. Using the Massachusetts’ average combined refund amount of $2,081, this calculates to an estimated $210 million that is left unclaimed.
“That refund can mean the difference between crisis and stability for hard-working residents and neighborhoods,” said Michael K. Durkin, president at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. “When families are more confident in their budgets and finances, they are more likely to put their money back into the community through their support of local retailers and businesses, which in turn has economic benefits to us all.”
According to the United Way Worldwide survey, 23 percent of those asked say they spend their refunds for food, while 22 percent spend the money on housing costs; 31 percent use their refunds for utilities. A quarter of those who receive refunds put the money into savings or invest the funds for the future.
The free tax preparation services, powered by volunteers, is supported by Bank of America and will be offered at five financial stability centers in the region. Individuals who come in for the free tax prep will also be connected to the other financial budget coaching and job training resources that the centers offer. Last year, clients of the services at these centers saw a median increase of $469 in their monthly net income, a median increase of $3,588 in their net worth, and a median increase of 31 points in credit scores.
The 2016 locations are:
- Chelsea Connect at The Neighborhood Developers (4 Gerrish Avenue, Chelsea)
- Lawrence Financial Stability Center at Lawrence CommunityWorks (168 Newbury Street, Lawrence);
- Greater Quincy Financial REACH Center at Quincy Community Action Programs (1509 Hancock St., Quincy);
- City of Boston’s Center for Economic Empowerment in Roxbury (7 Palmer Street, Roxbury)
- Jewish Vocational Services Financial Opportunity Center in Downtown Boston (43 Hawkins Street, Boston)
Filers can also dial 211, United Way’s information and referral line, to find additional tax preparation sites closest to where they live or work.