Coalition reminds taxpayers about federal tax credit, offers free tax preparation

PLATTSBURGH - As people across the nation prepare to file their federal and state income tax returns, one organization is continuing its efforts to make North Country residents aware of a federal tax credit that could give them a little extra money.

The Clinton and Essex County Earned Income Tax Credit Coalition has been working since 2003 to inform taxpayers of the federal government's Earned Income Tax Credit, which is available to assist low-income families and individuals.

John C. Bernardi, executive director of the United Way of Clinton and Essex Counties Inc., one of the member organizations of the coalition, said getting the word out about the tax credit is imperative.

"This credit is very important, because it puts money in the pockets of people who need it, low- to moderate-income households. It's really a tremendous asset to the people of our region," said Bernardi.

According to information from the Internal Revenue Service, a taxpayer with two or more qualifying children must have an earned income of no more than $38,646, or $41,646 if married filing jointly. A taxpayer with one qualifying child may earn as much as $33,995, or $36,995 if married filing jointly.

Those without children are also eligible for the credit under certain restrictions. Taxpayers ages 25-65 are eligible if they have an earned income not greater than $12,880 for an individual or $15,880 for those married filing jointly.

The IRS estimates up to one in four eligible taxpayers may fail to claim the credit, said Bernardi.

"People may be missing out on a federal refund of up to $4,824 because they are not aware of the Earned Income Tax Credit," he said.

In addition to increasing awareness about the tax credit, the coalition offers free personal income tax return preparation in Clinton and Essex counties, regardless if taxpayers qualify for the credit, said Bernardi. Last year alone, the tax preparation sites prepared more than 3,000 tax returns, resulting in more than $2 million in refunds. Of that, approximately $500,000 consisted of Earned Income Tax Credits.

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