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Report: Low-Income Coloradans Losing Out on Tax Refunds

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April 2, 2008

Denver, CO – The Children's Defense Fund says that in Colorado more than half the people who qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit pay to have their tax forms filed, even though free tax help is available. Another 19 percent get high-interest "refund anticipation" loans, according to a new report by the organization.

Ed Shelleby of the Children's Defense Fund says it adds up to substantial losses for people who can't afford them.

"This is money that families should be able to keep in their pockets, and this is something that clearly needs to be addressed."

Shelleby says people making less than $40,000 a year can use an IRS-approved network of volunteer tax preparers available statewide.

"It helps cut down on the confusion of the process. It's done by trained staff people who know how to make certain that families get the most out of their refunds. It's a great service that will ensure that you get every dollar you've earned back."

Shelleby says Congress should set new rules on tax anticipation loans, which have interest rates reaching the triple digits.

"Each year, about three billion dollars go to these predatory commercial tax preparers, which is money out of the pockets of millions of families across the country."

Shelleby says the Earned Income Tax Credit was designed to help people with lower incomes rise above the poverty level, but that group is also a target market for fast-cash lenders. The lenders say they're providing a service to people who need money quickly. The Children's Defense Fund is asking Congress to cap interest rates on refund anticipation loans.

Eric Mack/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - CO