No one wants to leave their earned money on the government table and not have it in their own pocket. And yet that is what is happening when eligible individuals and families are not claiming their Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). In Oregon alone, $130 million is left unclaimed yearly. These are dollars that could have a substantial impact in the lives of individuals, families, and communities. The UCAN RSVP and AARP Tax Aide programs in Douglas and Josephine County are focused on securing EITC dollars for those who are eligible.
In partnership with The Ford Family Foundation and AARP Foundation, the initial project began in February 2017 to increase awareness by providing educational fliers (from IRS EITC education site) and distributing them to 35 local food pantries and 12 community kitchens.
At the end of last year’s tax season, the programs saw $1,087,910 total EITC dollars distributed to their eligible clients. The average EITC payment was $1,444.50. The average Annual Gross Income (AGI) of the clients served was $24,662.67; a family of four at that income is considered living below the poverty level. By those numbers, the average EITC payment is like a 6% bonus.
Though it is hard to determine the direct correlation the education and the results of the AARP Tax Aid data from last year, continued focus with our partners has allowed for a new collaboration with AmeriCorps. In September 2017, an AmeriCorps member began service in Josephine County under the RSVP Program with a work plan and focus for outreach and education in the county regarding EITC and how to determine eligibility. This will help families and individuals who file their own taxes (or use preparers other than RSVP/AARP) understand if they are eligible and how to claim their EITC payment.
AmeriCorps member, Janet Keller, has been developing partnerships with business owners in the community to educate the target audience: people that are aged 24-years and are earning less than $35,000 a year. Janet is able to give employees an estimation of their potential EITC refund and educate them on how to schedule an appointment for free tax help.
UCAN, The Ford Family Foundation, RSVP, AmeriCorps, and AARP TAX Aide are all working together so that less earned money is left on the government table and distributed to the hard-working Oregonians.