Advocates gathered at the State House on January 24, 2019, for 13th EITC Awareness Day
AUGUSTA, Maine — Workers may get a larger tax refund this year because of the EITC, or Earned Income Tax Credit. But that income boost is only available to those who file their taxes.
Advocates in Maine celebrated the 13th annual EITC Awareness Day at the State House on Thursday, January 24. The Maine Center for Economic Policy, CA$H Maine and New Ventures Maine gathered to promote the Earned Income Tax Credit. Activities included meeting with legislators to discuss the importance of filing taxes for low-income Mainers, as well as this year’s efforts to expand and strengthen the EITC.
The EITC is a tax credit for working people with low incomes. In 2018, 25 million workers received more than $63 billion in EITC refunds, according to the IRS. Roughly 95,000 Mainers received nearly $200 million in EITC refunds last year.
While millions of Americans and tens of thousands of Mainers benefited from the EITC, many others left money on the table because they didn’t file their taxes. The IRS estimates that one-fifth of eligible Americans don’t receive the EITC they earned by working. That leaves on the table billions of dollars that could help low-income Americans make ends meet.
“The EITC is one of the greatest anti-poverty programs ever created in our country. It helps Mainers buy groceries, pay bills and cover other basic living expenses. Mainers with low incomes should file their taxes, even if they don’t owe any taxes, to make sure they get credit for their hard work,” said Sarah Austin, a policy analyst specializing in taxes and budget at the Maine Center for Economic Policy.
Mainers who worked last year and had income of less than $54,884, may be eligible for the federal EITC. Eligibility can mean up to a $6,431 refund for some filers. On average, federal EITC adds $2,106 to Maine refunds.
Tax filers in Maine also are eligible for a state-level EITC, in addition to the federal credit. This year, MECEP and CA$H Maine are advocating for policymakers to strengthen the Maine EITC. As outlined in MECEP’s Prosperity Budget, the state should increase the maximum benefit for filers and expand eligibility to working Mainers with low incomes who are currently locked out of this powerful anti-poverty tool.
Mainers who earned less than $55,000 in 2018 can get free tax filing assistance by IRS trained and certified volunteers at one of CA$H Maine’s 35 tax sites. In 2018, CA$H Maine saved Mainers more than $566,000 in tax filing fees, and helped Mainers claim more than $1.51 million in Earned Income Tax Credits.
“The EITC can make a real difference for helping workers with low-incomes make ends meet, but one in five eligible Mainers did not receive the credit in 2018,” said Janet Smith, statewide CA$H Maine Financial Capability Coordinator and New Ventures Maine Regional Manager. “Our goal is to ensure that every eligible Mainer gets the EITC and the maximum refund they are due.”
For more information on CA$H Maine’s free tax filing assistance program, or for a list of CA$H Coalition locations, visit cashmaine.org/free-tax-prep/.