Happy Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day

DENVER – Gov. John Hickenlooper has proclaimed today Colorado State Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day.

The state credit is available to thousands of Coloradans for the first time in 15 years, and the Piton Foundation has launched a statewide campaign to make sure all eligible workers, including active military and returning veterans, get the refunds they deserve.

Courtney Sabine, campaigns manager with the foundation, says the program can be a game changer for families.

“It basically rewards work,” she stresses. “Instead of falling back to the point where, ‘If I’m making more money then I lose some of these public benefits and so I can’t do that to my children.’

“Instead, it’s helping kind of create that bridge between poverty and self-sufficiency.”

Sabine points to research that shows the Earned Income Tax Credit helps improve health for mothers and their infants, leads to higher test scores for children in school and increases earnings when those children enter the workforce.

She notes the dollar amounts vary by income and family size, but the combined federal and state credit can add thousands of dollars to refund checks.

According to the Colorado Fiscal Institute, more than 350,000 Coloradans claimed $772 million from the federal credit last year, but nearly 120,000 residents missed out because they didn’t know the program existed.

Ali Mickelson, director of tax and legislative policy at the institute, says that means as much as $257 million in refunds didn’t make its way into Colorado’s economy.

“When you put EITC dollars in the pockets of working families, they turn around and they spend them locally at small businesses,” she points out. “And then that has an increasing economic impact. And so the Colorado EITC will have an additional $77 million that will be spent in our local communities.”

Free tax help is available for Coloradans who qualify based on income. And if it turns out you should have received the federal credit in previous years, you can file retroactively for up to three years.

To find a tax assistance site near you, call 211. Free filing software can also be found online at IRS.gov.

Photo credit: 401(K) 2012, Creative Commons, Flickr