Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, were in West Oakland today to tout a free tax assistance program that helps working poor people take advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit, to the tune of many millions of dollars in the East Bay.
The “Earn it! Keep it! Save it!” tax assistance program – a project led by the United Way of the Bay Area in cooperation with more than 250 public and private partners, now in its ninth year – provides free tax return preparation help to families that earned less than $49,000 in 2010; it helped 52,000 taxpayers last year.
The Earned Income Tax Credit, created in 1975, is a refundable federal income tax credit for low to moderate income working individuals and families, conceived in part to offset the burden of social security taxes and to provide an incentive to work. When the EITC exceeds the amount of taxes owed, it results in a tax refund to those who claim and qualify for it.
At a news conference in the People’s Federal Credit Union at Seventh Street and Mandela Parkway, Lee said the EITC lets working families keep more of their money, which ultimately benefits the entire community in which that money is spent. And as social services continue to be scaled back, she said, such families need all the help they can get.
“We have millions that’s being left on the table” while “we have so many people who are struggling … and there could be cash in their pockets right now,” Skinner said.
The “Earn it! Keep it! Save it!” program last year operated 211 sites in seven Bay Area counties, with 3,949 volunteers helping to prepare 51,963 tax returns that brought $57.2 million in total refunds, including almost $18.3 from the EITC.