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Opinion: Editorial: United Way Helps with Available Tax Credits
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Opinion: Editorial: United Way Helps with Available Tax Credits

How could Fairfax County residents receive a larger refund?

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Rosie Allen-Herring

As the deadline to file taxes on April 15 approaches quickly, it’s important for residents to plan ahead and submit their income tax returns as soon as possible. The United Way of the National Capital Area and its partners are providing free tax preparation services for families earning less than $55,000 by IRS trained tax volunteers at United Way NCA Financial Empowerment Centers and VITA locations throughout the Fairfax County area. While working with one of these tax volunteers, residents can see if they qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a refundable tax credit available to qualifying lower wage workers and their families as well as the Child Tax Credit.

The EITC is one of the nation’s largest and most effective anti-poverty programs as it both supplements earnings and incentivizes employment. In 2016, the EITC lifted an estimated 5.8 million people out of poverty, more than half of them children. Specifically, families with less than an annual income of $55,000 from wages or self-employment can qualify to earn up to $6,400 in EITC.

Here’s what residents need to know when they visit a United Way NCA Financial Empowerment Center or one of its 8 partner VITA sites located throughout the Fairfax County area:

Free tax preparation services for families earning less than $55,000.

Residents should bring income documents from all jobs worked throughout the year as well as their social security number, and a valid photo ID.

Many people will qualify for EITC for the first time this year due to changes in their income, their marital status, or parental status, according to the IRS.

The IRS estimates that only four out of five eligible workers currently claim their EITC.

The Child Tax Credit is available to workers who earn more than $2,500 in 2018. To qualify, a child must be under the age of 17.

We want all residents in our community to reach financial security. We can help them reduce the cost of tax preparation services and identify all of their eligible tax credit options, and ensure they get refunds in a timely manner. In 2018, United Way NCA and its partners helped families in D.C., Maryland and Virginia access a total of $17.7 million in refunds through the VITA program.

A larger refund can make a difference for those who are struggling to make ends meet. Residents are encouraged to use traditional banking services to save as much of their tax return as possible. Using check cashing or other services typically charge large fees to cash checks. Residents looking for access to free or low-cost banking solutions can visit a United Way NCA Financial Empowerment Center. To find a location near you, please visit unitedwaynca.org/FEC.

United Way NCA VITA sites are located throughout DC, Maryland and Virginia and will offer free tax services until April 15, 2019. A full list of locations is available at unitedwaynca.org/VITA-Site. In addition, year-round tax services are available at United Way NCA’s Financial Empowerment Center at Prince George’s Community College, Center for Advanced Technology, Room 102 located at 301 Largo Road Largo, MD 20774.