Tax Resources for Survivors, Advocates, and Programs

Income tax refunds can provide much needed financial assistance to survivors of domestic violence.  The due date for filing 2012 federal income taxes with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is Monday, April 15th, 2013.

You may begin filing your tax returns on January 30th, 2013.

Tax Credit Information:

VAWnet.org’s Special Collection: Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Other Tax Credits

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Central

Find a location that offers free tax preparation in your area.  The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Programs offer free tax help for taxpayers who qualify.

Locate the nearest IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service

Locate the nearest Low-Income Tax Clinic in Texas

Tax Credit Outreach Toolkits:

National Women’s Law Center’s Tax Credit Outreach Toolkit for Advocates

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ National Earned Income Tax Credit & Child Tax Credit Outreach Campaign

 

Family Violence Survivors:
Survivors should note that they may be eligible for relief from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for the previous tax debt or tax burden of their abusers, known as Innocent Spouse Relief. See “Tax Information for Survivors of Domestic Abuse,” a basic informational brochure for survivors created by the IRS. Additional information about Innocent Spouse Relief can also be found on the IRS website.

Immigrant Survivors:

Immigrants may discover additional benefits to filing taxes including proving presence in the U.S., evidencing relationships to spouses and/or children and demonstrating compliance with the law. Advocates and immigrants should review the “Special Issues for Immigrants Filing Tax Returns” flyer by the National Employment Law Project for information on the types of refunds that are available to immigrants with various types of status, as well as unique processes and forms for immigrant workers. The brochure also addresses applying for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). Additional information on ITINs can also be found on the Texas Taxpayer Assistance Project (T-TAP) website.

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC):

Every year Texas families leave nearly $1 billion in potential tax credits in the hands of the federal government due to lack of knowledge about the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), an income tax credit for low- to moderate-income working individuals and families. Single or married individuals who worked full-time or part-time at any point during 2012 may qualify for the EITC, depending on their income. For the tax year 2012, the maximum EITC available, depending on marital status and income and number of children, ranges from $5,891 for workers with three or more qualifying children to $475 for workers with no qualifying children. More information about qualifying for the EITC can be found on the EITC Central website.

Child Tax Credit (CTC):

This is a tax credit for children living in your household. The CTC is worth up to $1000 for each qualifying child under age 17 (during the entire year) on the worker’s tax return. Information about the CTC can also be found on the IRS website. Families eligible for the CTC may also qualify to claim the credit for child and dependent care expenses through the Child and Dependent Care Credit if money was spent on childcare for an eligible child while a parent worked or looked for work.

Visit the IRS Free File website  to determine the best online filing company for your situation. The IRS approved companies will automatically calculate and file for all potential tax credits, including the EITC and the CTC.

Public Benefits Recipients:

EITC is not counted as income in most public benefit programs including: TANF, SSI, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps), Medicaid, CHIP, and federally assisted housing. Receipt of the credit will not affect your eligibility for such benefits. An EITC may, however, be counted in various ways as a resource by these programs, unless it is spent almost immediately or placed in an exempt savings account such as an IDA.

See the flyer “Can I Save My Tax Refund and Keep My Benefits?” by the Center for Public Policy Priorities for more information. (en español).

Refund Anticipation Loans:

First and foremost, survivors should avoid commercial tax assistance that advertises “Fast Cash Refunds,” “Express Money,” or “Instant Refunds,” also known as Refund Anticipation Loans (RALs), typically high-interest, short-term refund loans.
Free Tax Assistance is Available (Eligibility is typically for families earning less than $50,000 / year. For individuals, the income cap is typically less – see the individual program sites for further information):

Do-it-Yourself Electronic Tax Filing Resources

• A new website sponsored by the Texas Legal Services Center, www.icanefile.org, will automatically calculate and file for all potential tax credits, including the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the Child Tax Credit (CTC), and others. There is no charge to use the website. For a list of the forms that the program, I-CAN™ E-FILE, can file on your behalf, click here.
Free File allows you to prepare and electronically file your federal taxes on line. The Free File program provides free federal income tax preparation and electronic filing for eligible taxpayers (adjusted gross income of $56,000 or less in 2009) through a partnership between the IRS and the Free File Alliance LLC, a group of private sector tax software companies.
• Be certain that you do not fall prey to any efforts to sell ancillary or upgraded tax preparation services. You should never have to give your credit or debit card information to complete your return at any of the IRS free file partner sites.

Tax Preparation Services

• Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) programs offer free assistance in preparing tax returns to those who earn under $49,000. For information on the nearest VITA site call (800) 829-1040 or dial 211 (if 211 does not work in your area, dial 877-541-7905). For a list of the 2013 VITA Grant Award Recipients who will be providing free VITA services and can assist you in filing your 2012 taxes click here (scroll down for the list of Texas sites).
• If you are located in or near Austin, Texas, Community Tax Centers (CTCs) provide assistance to low-income individuals to help file their taxes. In addition to receiving professional tax preparation services, CTC clients benefit from the following programs: free refund check cashing service by Frost Bank for unbanked clients; one-stop shop for taxes and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA); free legal and tax assistance for small business owners; and free one-on-one financial coaching.
• If you are located in or near Houston, Texas, Neighborhood Tax Centers provide free tax assistance to families earning less than $50,000 / year.

Tax Assistance for the Elderly

• Through the IRS Tax Counseling for the Elderly Program (TCE), trained volunteers from non-profit organizations provide free tax counseling and basic income tax return preparation for senior citizens. As part of the IRS-sponsored Tax Counseling for the Elderly Program, AARP offers the Tax-Aide counseling program at more than 7,000 sites nationwide during the filing season. For more information on TCE, call 1-800-829-1040. To locate the nearest AARP Tax-Aide site, call 1-888-227-7669 or visit AARP’s Web site.

IRS Tax Assistance

IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers are your source for personal tax help when you believe your tax issue cannot be handled online or by phone, and you want face-to-face assistance. If you need to resolve a tax problem, have questions about how the tax law applies to your individual tax return, or you’re more comfortable talking with someone face-to-face, visit your local Taxpayer Assistance Center and talk with an IRS representative across the counter.

Assistance with Resolving Tax Disputes / Problems with the IRS

• The IRS awards grants nationally to Low Income Tax Payer Clinics to provide free tax assistance to lower income individuals (for example, the current earning threshold for a family of four is less than $55,125 / annually) regarding tax disputes with the IRS. To review the eligibility guidelines for these clinics and locate clinics across Texas, click here.
Texas Taxpayer Assistance Project (T-TAP) serves low-income taxpayers in their service area who need assistance resolving tax problems with the IRS.

Additional Resources

• Advocates and survivors may also wish to call United Way’s First Call for Help at 211 (if 211 does not work in your area, dial 877-541-7905) or click here to access additional tax assistance resources in your communities.
• Additional resources may also be found on the website of the National Community Tax Coalition.