United Ways of California is urging Californians to file before the April 18 tax filing deadline. According to the most recent data from the Franchise Tax Board (FTB), filing for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is down 5 percent among Californians this tax season compared to this day last year, and while nearly 4 million California residents claimed the tax credit last year, less than 35 percent of those eligible have filed for the credit this year. 

Thousands of dollars in tax credits are available to California residents – and all they have to do is file their taxes to receive them. There are numerous no-cost tax filing options available and Californians are encouraged to visit MyFreeTaxes.org to utilize United Ways’ free tax filing program and tax education resources, provided in both English and Spanish.

Advocates are concerned at the low filing numbers this close to Tax Day, as 64 percent of Americans are now living paycheck to paycheck. However, it’s not too late for working families in California to get additional tax credits from the state – California is offering two tax credit programs to help families stay afloat:

• The California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC) ranges from $255 to over $3,000 and is available to families with incomes up to $30,000.

• If you qualify for the CalEITC AND have a child under the age of 6, families can file for the Young Child Tax Credit (YCTC), which provides up to an additional $1,000 per child.

United Ways of California urges families to stay away from pay-to-file companies to file for these tax credits, which can save filers 13 to 20 percent of their tax refund, an average of $400. According to an audit by the Treasury General for Tax Administration, more than 14 million taxpayers in 2019 may have paid tax software providers when they could have filed for free.

“United Ways throughout California are providing IRS-certified volunteers at no cost to these hardworking families, helping them navigate these tax credit programs and get their tax returns submitted early,” said Pete Manzo, United Ways of California president and CEO. “The money can add up to quite a lot. In fact, some families can receive thousands of dollars – depending on their income and family size. With quick, safe, no-cost tax filing programs like MyFreeTaxes.org, all eligible Californians should claim these life-changing tax credits.”

Federal tax credits are also still available to families – even if households made $0 – like the Child Tax Credit (CTC), which provides up to $3,600 per child under the age of 18 as of December 31, 2021, and EITC, which adds up to $6,728 if the filer made less than $57,414.

As of this month, the IRS had a backlog of 7.2 million unprocessed individual returns for 2021, a far higher number than the typical one million. Families should expect to experience delays when filing their taxes this year, so it’s important to file as early as possible. The agency also added new regulations around claiming EITC or CTC to prevent identity fraud, so filers should be prepared for an additional delay if filing for these programs. 

“Utilizing [free tax prep assistance] is essential to someone in need, you never know what someone has to go through in their lives financially,” said Crystal Vargas, a Kern County resident who filed through United Ways’ services. “I always come here knowing I’ll be taken care of—people don’t need to feel the financial burden of paying someone for their taxes and not knowing what exactly the process is. I plan to spend some of my refund on paying back my student loans and catching up on bills, and the rest to savings for emergencies.”

Nearly one in three California households—over 3.5 million families (33 percent)—do not earn sufficient income to meet basic needs, making it more important than ever to file by the April 18 deadline – the smallest delay in receiving tax returns could provide challenges to families who need to cover daily expenses and meet basic needs. 

For more information, free assistance, and to see qualifications for no-cost tax filing, filers should visit MyFreeTaxes.org or text “taxes” to 211-211 to find a free tax filing site near them.

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