Oregonians Paying (through the Nose?) for Tax-Time Convenience
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Portland, OR - With April 15th fast approaching, many people are under pressure just to file their income tax returns. However, some of Oregon's lowest-income families also are being pressured out of some of their tax refund money, according to a new report from the Children's Defense Fund. It says that in Oregon more than half the people who qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit pay someone to file their forms, even though free tax help is available. Another 16 percent lose money when they get "refund anticipation" loans, which are really high-interest, short-term debt.
Children's Defense Fund spokesman Ed Shelleby says it adds up to substantial losses.
"Oregon families lost nearly $23 million paying for 'refund anticipation' loans and other services done by predatory commercial tax preparers. Families should be able to keep this money in their pockets. This is something that clearly needs to be addressed."
Congress intended the Earned Income Tax Credit to help people in the lowest income bracket pull themselves out of poverty, but that group is a target market for fast-cash lenders, Shelleby says. The lenders respond that they're merely providing a service to people who need money quickly. The Children's Defense Fund will ask Congress to make the rules for such loans more clear.
"Using IRS-approved help cuts down on the confusion of the process. Returns are prepared by trained staff who know how to make certain that families get the most out of their refunds. It's a great service that will ensure you get back every dollar you've earned."
Low-income taxpayers can locate their nearest Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program office by calling 1-800-829-1040.
The Children's Defense Fund report was compiled using figures for 2005, the most recent year for which tax-filing data was available. The report, including a breakdown by state, is available at www.childrensdefense.org.
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