Sunday, March 09, 2014 9:17 PM
Published on: Wednesday, February 05, 2014
By Maryland CASH Campaign, Special to The Sentinel
Marylanders who made less than $52,000 in 2013 may be eligible for free, nonprofit tax preparation services savings millions in unnecessary fees.
Prince Georges County, Maryland. Millions of tax refund dollars are lost each year by low-income Maryland taxpayers who utilize commercial tax preparers and “rapid refund” or refund anticipation loans, according to data from the Maryland CASH (Creating Assets, Savings and Hope) Campaign.
Hundreds of thousands of taxpayers filing through commercial tax preparers are actually eligible for free tax preparation services and can receive the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which is available to working individuals or families who earned less than $52,000 in 2013; those eligible for EITC may be able to receive up to $6,000 in federal tax refunds and an additional $1,500 in state refunds, if they file properly. Annually, an estimated $32.5 million was wasted by low-income taxpayers in Maryland on paid, commercial tax preparers when they could have had their state and federal taxes prepared for free instead.
Maryland CASH Campaign partners statewide prepared and filed 17,380 federal and state tax returns for low-to-moderate income working families in 2013, saving taxpayers $2.6 million in costly preparation fees. Those interested in finding out if they qualify for having their federal and state taxes prepared and e-filed for free by IRS-trained and certified Maryland CASH Campaign partners should call 1-800-492-0618. The 800 number can also provide contact information for the specific free tax prep sites in your area. Free tax preparation sites are now open – go to
http://mdcash.org/free-tax-preparation/info-for-taxpayers/free-tax-prep-locations/ for locations.
When low-income Marylanders use paid tax preparers, much of the EITC and other refunds are eaten up by fees rather than going into the pockets of the families who need it most. The Maryland CASH Campaign urges EITC eligible taxpayers to have their tax returns prepared for free by trustworthy, certified and trained nonprofit tax preparers available statewide who can help them direct deposit their refunds for the fastest delivery of refunds. For those who do not already have bank accounts, many of the Maryland CASH Campaign partner sites will help taxpayers open a new bank account.
All of the Maryland CASH Campaign partners’ sites can help taxpayers use part of their refunds to purchase US Savings Bonds for loved ones, then direct deposit the rest. US Savings Bonds are a safe way to save and make an investment in the future of children and grandchildren.
“My office is proud to work with the Maryland CASH Campaign to offer free services to the taxpayers of our state. We wholeheartedly support their efforts to increase the fiscal well-being of hardworking Marylanders and to bolster financial literacy. Maryland’s future depends on a citizenry armed with the tools to make smart financial decisions — and the Maryland CASH Campaign and its partners provide those essential skills,” comments Maryland State Comptroller Peter Franchot.
“State refund checks can be direct deposited and available in your bank account within one to three days after electronic filing and federal refunds in one week to ten days – no one gets folks their refunds faster than our free tax prep partners,” states Robin McKinney, Director of the Maryland CASH Campaign. “Why should free tax prep eligible taxpayers pay fees up to $500 for a fairly simple tax return when, instead, they could have it done for free and their refund direct deposited?”
McKinney adds, “With the economic crisis, many people are worried about making ends meet. Rather than falling for the ‘rapid refund’ companies’ gimmicks, we hope people will save more money by utilizing free, not-for-profit tax preparers instead. Please get your taxes e-filed for free instead of paying expensive fees. Call 1-800-492-0618 to see if you qualify for free tax preparation services.”
Here are some specific examples from across the state of the economic impact of federal EITC**:
Prince George’s County – Of 70,332 EITC returns filed:
· $155,068,503 in EITC refunds were received by taxpayers
· The average amount received per return was $1,922
Montgomery County – Of 53,630 EITC returns filed:
· $113,432,752 in EITC refunds were received by taxpayers
· The average amount received per return was $1,671
Frederick County - Of 11,394 EITC returns filed:
· $22,458,614 in EITC refunds were received by taxpayers
· The average amount received per return was $1,767
Charles County – Of 8,452 EITC returns filed:
· $18,045,564 in EITC refunds were received by taxpayers
· The average amount received per return was $1,833
Allegany County – Of 5,556 EITC returns filed:
· $11,346,752 in EITC refunds were received by taxpayers
· The average in EITC refunds per return was $1,248
Somerset County – Of 2,098 EITC returns filed:
· $4,769,424 in EITC refunds were received by taxpayers
· The average amount received per return was $1,839
Baltimore City – Of 75,559 EITC returns filed:
$182,588,980 in EITC refunds were received by taxpayers
The average amount received per return was $1,369
**Source: Based on an analysis of Maryland’s Federal EITC Table on Compliance Data Warehouse 26 (part year TY2011 January – June 2012)
Due to the government shut-down in the Fall of 2013, the Internal Revenue Service will be unable to accept any filed taxes until January 31, 2014. However, all taxpayers are still urged not to wait until the last minute to have their taxes prepared but rather make appointments now to have their taxes prepared for free. Completed IRS and state forms will then be automatically filed on January 31. All taxes are still due on April 15, 2014.
About The Maryland Cash Campaign: The Maryland CASH (Creating Assets, Savings and Hope) Campaign is a statewide network of organizations that promotes programs, products and policies that increase the financial security of low-to moderate-income individuals and families across Maryland. Maryland CASH advocates on behalf of these families, as well as provides financial education programs such as theMaryland Cash Academy
http://www.mdcashacademy.org/. Their partner organizations provide free tax preparation sites offering access to appropriate financial services and benefits screening. For more information, contact Ms. Robin McKinney, Director of the Maryland CASH Campaign, at firstname.lastname@example.org 443-692-9422. www.mdcash.org