WASHINGTON, D.C. – With tax filing season underway, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) alerted Ohioans to important resources that help taxpayers receive the refunds they have earned. According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), 950,000 households in Ohio claimed an average Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) of more than $2,400 last year. One out of every five taxpayers who are eligible for the EITC nationwide, however, fail to claim the credit.
“Wall Street CEOs and billionaire corporations have armies of accountants on their side – let’s make sure hard-working families in Ohio know there is free help available to make sure they get their maximum refund,” Brown said. “We want to help more Ohioans claim the tax credits they’ve earned and put more money back in their pockets.”
During a news conference call today, Brown was joined by Amy Hanauer, the founding executive director of Policy Matters Ohio, who discussed the importance of the EITC. The EITC is a refundable tax credit for low-income Americans that encourages work and helps families make ends meet. According to the IRS, more than 27 million Americans claimed the credit in 2014.
“Working parents should make sure to seek free tax assistance so that they can get the full tax credit they’ve earned.” Hanauer said. “Because of Senator Brown’s hard work, the credit will be a little bit bigger for the next few years. That means hundreds of thousands of working Ohioans will have more resources to keep rent paid, replace their kids’ too-small sneakers, and get that knock in their car engine checked out.”
To help Ohioans navigate this process and get the maximum refund, Brown today released a map of Ohio’s tax assistance sites, where taxpayers can access free help filing their taxes. Additionally, Brown directed Ohioans to the IRS Free File program and the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, which offer free help for taxpayers. The Free File program, specifically, provides access to brand-name tax software to approximately 100 million individuals and families with incomes of $62,000 or less. Seventy percent of the nation’s taxpayers are eligible for IRS Free File.
Brown also warned against some common tax scams and pointed to ways Ohioans can protect themselves. Click here to view the top 10 tips for Ohioans to protect themselves from tax-related identity theft and scams. Ohioans who have been victims of scams or have doubts about a call or letter they have received claiming to be from the IRS can contact Brown’s office here and the IRS here.
Brown is a cosponsor of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Act, legislation that would make the matching VITA grant program permanent and direct the IRS to develop a national standard for best practices. In 2015, Brown helped secure an increase in VITA funding as well as additional resources to help expand access for the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program.
In December, Brown – a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance – helped secure passage of a bill to permanently extend expansions of the EITC and Child Tax Credit (CTC) – two of the most important anti-poverty credits for working families. Without an extension of the EITC and CTC by 2017, approximately 50 million Americans would have lost all or part of their EITC or CTC and 16.4 million people would have been pushed into poverty or deeper into poverty.