By John Lynds
Most people don’t want to think about it but it’s the time a year to begin thinking about filing 2019 tax returns. For many working people in Mission Hill there’s some relief from the confusing process of figuring out taxes.
Action for Boston Community Development’s (ABCD) Parker Hill/Fenway Neighborhood Service Center site, in partnership with the City of Boston, kicked off its annual Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) program at its office at 714 Parker St. Mission Hill residents can head to ABCD’s Parker Street site for free tax prep. The office will be opened Monday through Friday to help begin the tax filing process. Taxes for qualifying residents can be done through appointment by calling the office at (617)-445-6000.
If you earned less than $56,000 in 2019, you may qualify.
For many working people in Mission Hill the program has provided some relief from the confusing process of figuring out taxes. Qualified hard working low-wage workers often receive significant EITC credits and see a big increase in their tax returns through the free program. This is money that can directly help low-income residents who work hard for their money. It can be used to pay the heat, food and rent costs that are weighing people down.
“Hard-working income-eligible workers who file for EITC with their tax returns can see a significant increase in their refunds,” said John J. Drew, ABCD President/CEO. “A married couple with three or more children earning up to $55,952 and filing jointly will receive the maximum federal EITC of $6,557 plus the state EITC of $1,967 for a total EITC of $8,524. That can have considerable impact on a family that’s scraping by week to week.”
Drew noted that the EITC has been called one of the most successful anti-poverty programs. It was established to assist income-eligible taxpayers who come from traditionally hard-to-reach and underserved communities. Wages have been virtually stagnant since the 1970s, meaning it’s harder than ever for working people to meet their basic needs.
Last year, ABCD’s sites completed 5,192 tax returns that resulted in a total of $10.4 million in federal and state refunds for Mission Hill and Boston residents through the EITC program. Parker Hill was one of several free tax preparation sites in the city that made filing taxes trouble-free for hundreds of low-income residents and families.
In 2019, the average EITC refund amount was $2,400. Yet, according to the Internal Revenue Service, an estimated one in five EITC-eligible workers fail to claim this valuable credit each year.
Last Friday Mayor Martin Walsh’s encouraged Boston residents to take advantage of free tax preparation services available at more than 30 sites across the Boston area during an event at ABCD in Roxbury.
“The free tax services provided by the Boston Tax Help Coalition are a fantastic opportunity for hard-working residents to save money,” said Walsh. “The services help taxpayers avoid the costs of for-profit tax preparation agencies while still claiming cash back on their tax returns. These savings can provide a critical boost to a family’s financial health.”
The EITC credit can be accessed retroactively for the past three years, so qualifying low-income workers may qualify for a considerable sum.
Also seniors aged 65 and older were eligible to receive tax refunds from the State of Massachusetts through the “Senior Circuit Breaker Tax Credit”. This credit was available to all eligible seniors who paid unsubsidized rent or property taxes and was also retroactive for three years. The “Senior Circuit Breaker” offered a tremendous financial opportunity for those who qualify.
Initiated by the IRS in 1969, the EITC and VITA is a nationwide program that assists taxpayers earning up to $58,000 a year. VITA sites are generally located at community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools, shopping malls and other convenient locations such as community colleges in low income areas.
In addition to tax preparation, the Coalition provides clients with other services to improve their financial health. For example, the Coalition connects taxpayers to Bank On Boston, an initiative launched by Mayor Walsh that helps residents identify banking services that are safe, affordable, and non-predatory. Trained financial guides also offer taxpayers the Financial Check-Up, a key component of Boston Builds Credit, the City’s free credit building program. A Financial Check-Up is a one-on-one session in which a taxpayer can review his or her credit score and obtain personalized credit-building strategies. A new funder of this work is the SunTrust Foundation, which this year provided a $50,000 grant to support Boston’s credit-building programs.