City recruiting volunteer tax preparers

Aim is for working poor to file for their due credits

November 12, 2003|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,SUN STAFF

Teffany Horne is a single mother raising two children on a receptionist's salary of $20,000. Horne's tight budget could barely cover her daily taxi and bus rides to work, let alone professional tax preparation at year's end.

She got by, she says, just barely.

Then, last year, she learned of a program aimed at the working poor that provided her with free tax preparation and helped her to get nearly $4,000 in state and federal tax refunds.

"I took my refund and bought a car," said Horne, 37. "The word needs to get out about the earned income tax credit."

Today at City Hall, officials will do just that when they launch the Baltimore Creating Assets, Savings and Hope Campaign. The program is recruiting tax preparers to provide free services to the working poor, many of whom qualify for the earned income tax credit.

"We make sure everyone gets all the tax credits they're due," said Alison Beck Yonas, Baltimore CASH Campaign's coordinator. "It's money that people are eligible for, and we want to make sure they get that money."

More than 25 percent of such tax credits go unclaimed every year, officials said. Last year's city campaign mobilized 180 volunteers who prepared 1,981 tax returns for people and families in low- to moderate-income brackets, returning them $2.8 million in refunds. Nearly half of that money came through the earned income tax credit, a Nixon-era program meant to help lift people out of poverty.

The credit is for full-time, part-time or temporary workers. The maximum credit is $4,961. Last year, 16 million parents with children and 3 million people without dependents claimed the credit, said John Wancheck, the earned income credit campaign coordinator for the private Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington.

To be eligible, households with two or more children must earn less than $33,692 -- or $34,692 if filers are married. Households with one child must earn less than $29,666 -- or $30,666 for married filers. Workers with no children must be between the ages of 25 and 64 and earn no more than $11,230 if they are single, $12,230 if they file as married.

"It has been a big help to me," said Christina Jeffries, 37, a single mother of two who earns $17,000 a year providing in-home day care.

Those wishing to volunteer to provide tax service should call 410-235-5299. To find out about eligibility for the tax credit, call 410-685-0525.

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