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Chicago helps with income tax filings for low-wage earners

November 22, 2010
Chicago dealers should alert their employees about a city program that helps low-income Chicago residents fill out their tax forms, get tax credits and invest any refunds before they are spent. The program is an effort to help more eligible taxpayers use the Earned Income Tax Credit, which refunds some or all of the federal income tax paid by low-income workers. "Millions of dollars are going unclaimed because people don't know about it or how to claim it," said Sue Hales, a spokeswoman of the Internal Revenue Service. The project provides free tax preparation at 28 sites in Chicago and 19 sites in the suburbs. Tax preparers also help taxpayers sign up for free bank accounts. More than 900,000 Illinois families may be eligible for the tax credit but only about 750,000 take advantage of it, IRS and other officials said. A single taxpayer earning up to $12,230 is eligible. Families with two children may earn up to $34,692 and still take advantage of the credit, which can be as high as $4,204. The EITC awareness campaign also is informing employees about the Child Tax Credit. That credit now is worth up to $1,000 per child and is available to more families, even those who do not owe income taxes. Employers can help by notifying their employees about the EITC and the availability of credit by printing information on pay stubs and displaying posters, and by enlisting employees to serve as volunteer tax preparers at organizations that help low-income families files for the credit. "We're trying to get more people involved," said Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. "It's a way to help families." To participate, call Myer Blank, executive director of the Chicago Tax Assistance Center, at 312-744-1000. To find a free tax preparation center, call 311, Chicago's non-emergency information line. Outside Chicago, call 312-409-1555.