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Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders suspends his campaign for president. And COVID-19 is ravaging the black community in some areas, including Milwaukee.

2020Talks - April 9, 2020 


Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders drops out of the race for president, though he assured supporters yesterday his movement will continue. A federal judge ruled this week a lawsuit in Florida awaiting trial will apply to all people with former felony convictions, not just the 17 plaintiffs.

Tax Season: Don't Lose Out on Money You Are Owed

One in five people eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit don't claim it. (Adobe Stock)
One in five people eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit don't claim it. (Adobe Stock)
February 7, 2020

LANSING, Mich. - Filing tax returns can be tricky business, and community organizations across the state are working to ensure Michigan taxpayers don't lose out on the refunds they may be due.

Ross Yednock, program director of the Michigan Economic Impact Coalition at the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan, encourages anyone seeking assistance with their income-tax returns to ensure their preparer is qualified.

He explains that in Michigan, like many other states, there are no requirements or regulations for paid tax preparers.

"Anybody could hang out a shingle and charge people to do taxes," says Yednock. "That's a little frightening. That's not to say there are not good preparers out there. But if you paid someone to do your tax returns, you're still liable for it - and a lot of people don't realize that and are left holding the bag when their taxes were done wrong."

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance or 'VITA' program has IRS certified preparers who help taxpayers earning less than $56,000 file their returns free, and also identify possible credits and deductions.

There are hundreds of VITA sites in Michigan. Find one by calling '211,' or online at 'michiganfreetaxhelp.org.'

Brenda Brame oversees 14 VITA sites for the Kent County Tax Credit Coalition. She says having a qualified tax preparer can be life-changing.

During a financially challenging time in her own life, a paid tax preparer told her she owed $500. But a co-worker reviewed the return and discovered the person hadn't claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit, which put cash into Brame's pocket.

"So, my daughters and I went from walking everywhere or catching a bus to being able to take our refund and get a car," says Brame. "Then I came off of the state assistance, and remained employed and able to take care of my basic needs."

As a VITA tax reviewer in Grand Rapids, Timothy Forbes says he and other volunteers help taxpayers keep more of what they earn. And he notes the Kent County Tax Credit Coalition also offers financial counseling.

"That's really where they lend a hand," says Forbes. "I can prepare the taxes but sometimes, the result isn't exactly what we're hoping. We see a lot of times where city tax isn't withheld, or some other small surprises that'll fall in there - and really, their team helps out a lot in that matter."

The Earned Income Tax Credit is not claimed by an estimated one in five eligible taxpayers, which leaves anywhere between $90- and $190 million tax dollars in Lansing or Washington, DC each year instead of in the hands of Michigan taxpayers.

Disclosure: Community Economic Development Association of Michigan contributes to our fund for reporting on Community Issues and Volunteering, Housing/Homelessness, Poverty Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI