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EITC Awareness Day: A Tax Break Where It Helps Most

PHOTO: About 350,000 Coloradans of low and middle incomes are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit. Its backers are proposing making the state EITC permanent, rather than being triggered by Colorado's TABOR laws. Photo credit: Jack F./iStockphoto.com.
PHOTO: About 350,000 Coloradans of low and middle incomes are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit. Its backers are proposing making the state EITC permanent, rather than being triggered by Colorado's TABOR laws. Photo credit: Jack F./iStockphoto.com.
January 29, 2015

DENVER - If you aren't sure what the Earned Income Tax Credit is or whether you're eligible for it, this is the week to find out.

Friday is EITC Awareness Day, to call attention to the tax credit for low- to middle-income workers. There are federal and state Earned Income Tax Credits, but by law, the state credit in Colorado can't become a permanent, annual credit until the state has enough money for refunds under the Taxpayer Bill Of Rights.

A bill to untie that requirement is being introduced at the Capitol on Friday. Ali Mickelson, director of legislative and tax policy at the Colorado Fiscal Institute, says there's no reason to delay the credit, and plenty of reasons to put a little more money into workers' pockets.

"The bulk of this credit goes to families making $30,000 to $40,000 a year," Mickelson says. "It's spent immediately in the local economy; it's something that supports small businesses and we find people who receive the EITC spend it on necessities."

Amounts depend on a taxpayer's income, family size and filing status, but the federal EITC refund can be in the thousands of dollars - enough to lift 4 million households above the poverty line. Mickelson says state refunds are more modest, from less than $100 to about $600.

The EITC may not be a household term, but it helps a lot of households; Mickelson says a little more than 15 percent, statewide.

"Three-hundred-fifty-thousand Coloradans are eligible for the EITC, and that includes 25,000 military families; about 18 percent of those families live in rural Colorado," she says. "It's a really robust credit and impacts a lot of Colorado families."

The Internal Revenue Service says the reason for EITC Awareness Day is many taxpayers don't know it's available or if they qualify. The IRS estimates one in five of those who are eligible doesn't file for the credit with their income tax returns.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - CO