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Nonprofits Partner to Offer Free Tax Preparation to Low-Income Earners

By Wendell Hutson | January 15, 2014 9:11am
 Park Manor resident Leslie Chin is a single mother and independent contractor who recently found out she qualifies for the federal earned income tax credit.
Park Manor resident Leslie Chin is a single mother and independent contractor who recently found out she qualifies for the federal earned income tax credit.
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DNAinfo/Wendell Hutson

AUBURN GRESHAM — The Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation, St. Sabina Employment Resource Center and the Center for Economic Development are partnering to provide free tax preparation for low- to middle-income families.

The service begins Jan. 22 and runs until April 15 at the employment center, 1153 W. 79th St. The center will be open from 5-8:30 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays, and 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays, said Phil Hunter, director of community employment for the employment resource center, which has helped provide free tax service for the last 10 years.

"We not only help people find jobs, but we believe in a holistic view of helping people financially with their day-to-day needs," Hunter said. "After helping them find a job, we help them manage their income. By doing so, it helps them be more responsible and pay their taxes."

The Center for Economic Development also will be offering free tax preparation in Auburn Gresham and at other Chicago locations, including Bronzeville, Pilsen, Brighton Park and Lawndale.

The free tax service is available to families with a gross income of less than $50,000 and individuals who make less than $25,000. Items to bring when filing taxes are all W-2s and 1099s; Social Security cards or individual taxpayer identification numbers for all family members; a valid photo ID, such as a driver's license or state ID; a copy of last year’s tax return; and banking information for direct deposit refunds.

For low- to middle-income earners, the earned income tax credit often generates a large tax refund, said Tanecia Appling, a manager with Liberty Tax Service, 7908 S. Halsted St.

"For a lot of filers this is the only time of the year when they get a lump sum of money, especially people not making a lot of money," Appling said. "We get a lot of single mothers in here, and a lot of them are receiving some kind of public assistance."

According to the IRS, the tax credit is a refundable federal income tax credit for low- to moderate-income working individuals and families. Congress originally approved the tax credit legislation in 1975, in part to offset the burden of Social Security taxes, and to provide an incentive to work.

Eligibility for the tax credit is based on adjusted gross income.

Appling said the IRS changes income guidelines each year, but for the 2013 tax year, income cannot exceed $13,980 for individual filers with no dependents; $19,190 for a married couple filing jointly with no dependents; $36,920 for individuals filing with one dependent; $42,130 for a married couple with one dependent; $41,952 for individuals filing with two dependents; and $50,270 for individuals filing with three dependents.

The tax credit only allows up to three dependents for a maximum refund of $6,044.

Lashannon Faulkner, also a manager at Liberty Tax Service, said filers need to remember a few things when claiming dependents for the tax credit.

"The child must have lived in your home for more than six months, and you have to show proof that the child lived with you," Faulkner said. "The earned income credit is for dependents up to age 23. But if a dependent is between 19 and 23 they must be a full-time student to be claimed for the earned income credit."

That means Leslie Chin, a 36-year-old Park Manor resident and single mother of a 2-year-old son, is eligible for the tax credit. The independent contractor said she made less than $40,000 last year.

"I don't like filing taxes because it's cumbersome. But I do like it when I get a refund. I do my own taxes and never filed for the earned income credit, but I will look into doing so this year," Chin said. "When I get my tax refunds I use it to pay bills, buy things for my son and if it is anything left I will buy myself something."