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Hundreds may miss out on Earned Income Credit

Friday, January 16, 2004

A few hundred Clay County residents may be passing up thousands of dollars they could claim simply by filing for the Earned Income Tax Credit.

The local Step Ahead Council and the Clay Office of Family and Children want to make sure qualifying residents are aware of this opportunity.

The Earned Income Tax Credit is a federal tax break designed to help people who work but don't make a lot of money. A worker who earned less than $34,692 last year and has at least one child under the age of 18 probably qualifies. Indiana also has a state Earned Income Credit.

Statewide, about 371,000 Hoosiers claimed the federal credit in tax year 2001, collecting nearly $598 million. But approximately 84,000 Hoosiers left nearly $53 million unclaimed, according to IRS estimates.

IRS data shows 1869 Clay residents claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit in 2001, giving them back an average of $1483. The IRS estimates that as many as 436 people in Clay County qualified for the credit but didn't claim it, missing out on as much as $259,992.

"A lot of people do not take advantage of it," said Caroline McCullough, coordinator of the Step Ahead program. Those eligible could get some extra money if they went through the process."

Gail Oliver, public assistance supervisor at the Clay Office of Family and Children said, "One of our goals is to increase the income of our working, lower income families. They can get it on their paycheck or as a lump sum as a tax return."

The average refund in Indiana in 2001 was $1,612, but this year can total as much as $4,204, based on earnings and family situation. Full-time, part-time, even self-employed workers, including farmers, can claim the credit. People who are eligible can back file for as many as three years.

Anyone wanting more information about the Earned Income Tax Credit can call Oliver at 812-448-8731 or McCullough at 812-448-2006. They can also call the EITC at 1-800-829-1040 or visit them at www.irs.gov.

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