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Inglewood treasurer says families missing out on federal funds

Lavenia Stewart | 12/5/2012, 5 p.m.

In the spirt of giving, Inglewood's city treasurer is offering free tax preparation to low and moderate-income families and putting tax dollars back in their pockets by helping them take advantage of the federal government's largest resource for low-income working Americans, the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

"If you can't afford tax preparation we are offering them to a limited number of Inglewood residents. And for those families earning less than $51,000 you can apply for a EITC," said Treasurer Wanda Brown.

The New America Foundation reported in 2010 that unclaimed earned income tax credits cost California's economy and low-income residents $1 billion annually. EITC is widely regarded as the nation's most effective and efficient anti-poverty program and has been expanded by a series of Democratic and Republican presidents. However, hundreds of thousands of Californians fail to claim EITC refunds, which can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. In Los Angeles, $370 million in tax credits go unclaimed.

"Families with three or more children can receive up to $5,891," said Brown. Also single and married tax filers with no children can apply, although $475 is the maximum refund they may qualify for.

Whether a refund is large or small, if taxpayers do not apply for them that loss has a rippling effect, she said. "The families and individuals who miss out are not the only losers when these refunds go unclaimed. Local economies never benefit from this money. These dollars are never spent at local businesses so fewer jobs are created, fewer wages are paid, and eventually less tax revenue goes to state and local governments. These refunds are a foregone economic stimulus for California," states the Foundation's report.

Another little-known component available to taxpayers is the split refund. Proponents of this feature have championed the IRS to offer taxpayers the ability to direct deposit their refund into three different accounts in U.S. financial institutions.

This was especially set up to help low-income wage-earners increase their savings.

Over three-fourths of these workers had no savings previously.

The city treasurer's office number is (310) 412-5642. Call for more information and a list of documentation to bring to the appointment.