What Your Caregiver Families (And YOU!) Need To Know To Claim All The Money You’ve Earned At Tax Time! March 12, 2008 Hello Everyone! Thanks so much for joining us today for our chat on tax credits that may be available to the caregivers you serve! Our very special guest is Roxy Caines from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities! We posted, on our private page, a Melinda summary of the Earned Income Credit and Child Tax Credit, for your information. Thanks so much, Roxy, for joining us today to answer questions our RAPPs have about these tax credits and to share any other information you think might be helpful. Welcome! Roxy Hello everyone! I am pleased to join you today! Dawn joined. Melinda If you have specific questions for Roxy, please feel free to ask them! As you know, we are in the middle of tax season. Many people have already filed their tax returns, but some have not. This is still a good time to make sure people know Roxy about the Earned Income Credit (EIC), Child Tax Credit (CTC) and free tax filing assistance. Melinda Roxy, if people have already filed, is it too late to benefit from these credits? No, it is not! For people who have already filed their tax return, first they will want to look at the copy of their return to see if they claimed the EIC and CTC. If they did not, Roxy and they are eligible, they can amend their tax return to claim these credits. This doesn't just apply to this current tax year. In fact, eligible persons can claim EIC and CTC refunds for up to three previous years! That's good to know, that you can claim back three years. For the CTC, do you need to Melinda work to get the benefits? Must you have earned income for both of these credits? Victor Is this fairly easy to figure out or should they get help? Yes, you must have earned income for both of these credits. Earned income mainly Roxy refers to salary, wages and tips. It also includes union strike benefits, self-employment income, military combat pay and long-term disability benefits. Victor, are you asking if it is fairly easy to determine if you are eligible to claim the Roxy EIC and CTC, or is it fairly easy to amend a tax return? Rolanda Does the new stimulus payment affect the EIC or CTC? Victor I meant to do the paper work, both current tax return and/or amended. The economic stimulus payments that will be issued beginning in May do not affect Roxy who can claim the EIC and CTC. The payments will not reduce an EIC or CTC refund. Laura_Lou Does Social Security count as earned income? There are places that can help caregivers fill these out for free, right Roxy? If so, Melinda maybe we can share that info with RAPPs. Also great would be information - in different languages, on these benefits and you can help with that, right Roxy? Victor Different languages as in English, Spanish and IRS? To claim the EIC and CTC, one must file a tax return using Form 1040 or 1040A. To claim the EIC, one must also file the Schedule EIC which is a form that asks for basic information about the qualifying children — name, SSN, number of months lived with the worker and relationship to the worker. To claim the CTC, one must complete Form 8812 which requires a bit of math. One can complete these forms alone, but if someone is nervous about making a mistake, there are Volunteer Income Roxy Tax Assistance (VITA) sites across the country that have trained volunteer tax preparers who can complete these forms. Call 1-800-829-1040 to locate the site nearest you. Alternatively, one can try using an online program that guides people to complete there tax returns. One such program is called I-CAN-E-FILE!, www.icanefile.org. This program is available to people in California, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Montana and Alaska. If you are in another state and need help, please contact me. Social Security does not count as earned income for the EIC and CTC. Welfare Roxy benefits, veterans’ benefits, unemployment compensation, interest and dividends are also some of the types of income that are excluded from earned income. Melinda Would a tax preparer automatically tell people they are eligible? Melinda, I can provide you more info on finding free tax preparation to share with RAPPs. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities produces an EIC and CTC flyer Roxy in 21 languages. All fliers are posted to our website: www.cbpp.org/eic2008. The fliers can be found under the "Outreach Tools" link. Melinda Are the tax credits available at the state level as well? Melinda Great, we'll post any other information on where to go for help after the chat! Victor, I know it can seem like the IRS speaks a different language sometimes, but make no mistake! are talking about claiming money that taxpayers have earned! This Roxy year, the EIC is worth a maximum of $4,716 and the CTC is worth a maximum of $1,000 per child. Tax preparers at VITA sites are generally trained to tell people that they are eligible Roxy for the EIC and/or CTC and the amount of their expected refund. Some paid tax preparers do this to, but many do not. Roxy, what are some of the reasons that grandparents and other caregivers don't Melinda claim the tax? Is it mostly that they don't know they are eligible? Laura_Lou In West Virginia AARP offers free tax service. Melinda, excellent question about state level tax credits. There are about 19 states that have a state EIC. It is a percentage of the federal EIC. Some states have refundable state EICs and some are non-refundable. Either way, they can help Roxy maximize a worker's refund. I can send info on which states have state EICs and how much they are worth to you to share with the RAPP network. There are no state CTCs. Rolanda Do you think caregivers may feel that the tax credit may jeopardize other benefits? Rolanda So for clarification purposes, is the State EIC in addition to the federal EIC? Yes, AARP has a free tax filing assistance program as well. In some locations, they Roxy will only help people who are seniors, but in other locations they will help other families as well. Will the economic stimulus payment decrease the amount of federal income tax Dawn refund someone receives for 2008? How long does the child have to have been living with the relative to be eligible for Melinda the credits? Is custody an issue? For example, can someone without legal custody get the credits? There are a few reasons why grandparents and other caregivers may not claim the EIC and CTC. Not knowing they are eligible is a major reason. Some caregivers may think that a child has to be your son or daughter to claim these tax credits. Roxy Grandchildren, step children, adopted children, brothers, sisters and foster children (placed with the worker by an authorized agency) can be claimed as qualifying children. Caregivers may also not claim the credits because they don't know how to find help preparing tax returns. Some caregivers are also concerned that claiming the EIC and CTC will impact their Roxy benefits, such as foster care benefits. But, generally speaking, the receipt of one won't jeopardize any other benefits they receive. The State EIC is in addition to the federal EIC. In states that have a refundable state Roxy EIC, workers will be able to claim a total EIC refund that is more than the $4,716 federal maximum. Dawn, the economic stimulus payment will not decrease the amount of the federal Roxy income tax refund someone receives for 2008. It is a payment and does not need to be paid back and does not offset future refunds. Good question! Roxy, it's great that the Center provides the fliers, in different languages, on your website. RAPP facilitators can download them and make sure their caregivers Melinda receive them at the meetings. If they've already filed and not claimed, what a pleasant surprise to know they can go back three years. I hope we take advantage of the information and use it at our next meetings! I also found it interesting that your fact sheet - from the IRS - says that people who Melinda don't normally file tax returns can get a stimulus payment If they file. Many low income people who get social security benefits wouldn't be filing. For the EIC and CTC, custody is not a factor in determining who can claim the credits. A qualifying child must live with a worker for more than half the year. As Roxy long as this residency requirement is fulfilled (along with other basic requirements), the person can claim the child for the tax credit. Yes, the fact that many people who get social security benefits and veterans’ benefits do not file a tax return, but must do so to receive the economic stimulus payments is Roxy troubling. The Center and several other national organizations are currently involved in efforts to simplify this process and make sure that this population will be able to get help since filing a tax return will be confusing to many. That's good to know Roxy, because it may be confusing and a bit scary. I know there is a limit on the amount you can make for the stimulus package, Roxy. Do we have a Melinda figure and do we know when people will start receiving them? It's good to know they won't have to be paid back! Yes, my caregivers have been asking if they can get the stimulus if they are only on carolyn social security and don't file? Those caregivers, Carolyn, may not have filed in the past if they only get social Melinda security benefits. That's why it is troubling that they would have to file. They would right Roxy? The IRS will start sending checks in May and will continue through the end of the year. Single filers who make less than $75,000 and joint filers with Adjusted Gross Roxy Income of less than $150,000 will generally receive stimulus payments. Recipients of social security benefits and veterans’ benefits must have at least $3,000 in benefits to receive a payment. Carolyn, you can let your caregivers know that they must have at least $3,000 in Roxy social security benefits to get the stimulus payment. Melinda And that they must file, right Roxy? Yes Melinda, they would have to file. The IRS is conducting targeted outreach by matching information from the Social Security Administration to let people know Roxy that they need to file a tax return this one time (for the first time in however many years) to get the payment. Dawn If someone's only source of income is SSI are they eligible to receive a payment? This would seem like an area where some quick publicity needs to be done with Victor senior caregivers The IRS has designated March 29 as Super Saturday for Economic Stimulus Payments and is hoping that folks around the country will plan events to help these Roxy filers complete their tax return. However, this population does not need to file by April 15. They have until October 15 since they don't owe taxes. The Center will be encouraging our network to continue planning outreach events after March 29th. Dawn, I don’t think that SSI alone is an eligible source of income for the stimulus Roxy payment, but I will double check that. [Roxy followed up and here is her response: SSI is not an eligible source of income for economic stimulus payments]. Roxy, that's good to know about the extended date for the stimulus package -- will Melinda the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities have a flier or does or will the IRS? We would like to get the word out as well! Roxy Any estimates on the number of senior caregivers? That was a good question about SSI. We can share the answer with the Network after Melinda the chat, Roxy. The Center will be putting together outreach materials and the IRS does have 2 fliers, Roxy one geared to Social Security recipients and the other one is for Veterans. I will send you links to share. [Please see below for more information sent by Roxy]. Carolyn Thank you Roxy. That would be very helpful. Carolyn- Can caregivers who are raising non-relative children qualify for the tax credits and Yonkers stimulus payment? Roxy, our network provides supportive services to grandparents and other relatives Melinda raising children. Many seniors would be interested in this info! Carolyn- The stimulus payment I am referring to is for a child. Yonkers Carolyn, I believe children claimed for the economic stimulus payment still must meet the definition of a qualifying child for the CTC. Non-relative children would have to be placed with the caregiver by an authorized agency as a foster child. I will double check and let Melinda know. [Roxy followed up and here is her response: If a Roxy caregiver is a child's legal guardian, then it seems like the child would fall under the definition of a foster child for CTC/EIC purposes, because an authorized court agency has placed the child with the guardian by order of the court. If the child could not be claimed for the CTC, the additional stimulus payment for the child will not be made]. Qualifying children for the EIC must be under age 19, or under age 24 if a full-time student, or any age if he or she has a permanent and total disability. For the CTC, Roxy children must be under age 17. For the economic stimulus payments children must be under age 17 by December 31, 2008. Roxy, can you share any programs or promising practices that have been successful Angela in increasing EIC utilization rates? Carolyn- That would be helpful to find out because we have at least one client who is raising Yonkers an unrelated child and is her legal custodian, not foster parent. Roxy will get any information on that point to me Carolyn and we'll share it with Melinda everyone! Carolyn- Thank you Melinda Yonkers We can all try to help our relative caregivers by making information on the tax credits and the stimulus package available to them. Don't forget to check the website Melinda for fliers in different languages and Roxy will get me the information on the stimulus package that you can share with them as well. Angela, a good part of the Center's National Tax Credit Outreach Campaign is dedicated to increasing EIC claims among eligible persons. It is estimated that nationally, 15-20 percent of eligible persons DO NOT claim the EIC. Promotion is very important. It is also important to address any misconceptions people have about the EIC. It was first enacted in 1975 and has changed a lot over the years. Some people know something about the EIC from several years ago and would be surprised to learn that it may not be the same today. Across the country, there are several tax credit outreach coalitions that are dedicated to promoting the EIC, providing free tax filing assistance and making sure that people know about the tax credits. I will send Melinda info about how to locate a tax credit outreach coalition near you. If Roxy there isn't one in your area, we can help you start or expand tax credit outreach efforts to help make sure workers claim all the money they've earned. [Roxy followed up about information on tax credit outreach coalitions and here is her response: RAPPs can check the following website: www. tax- coalition.org/programs.cfm to learn about organizations providing free tax filing assistance. People can search for tax credit outreach coalitions by state that organize free tax filing assistance by visiting: www.cbpp.org/eitc- partnership/state-links.htm. This info is updated annually by the IRS. If someone doesn't see anything listed in their area, they should contact us because we might know of a newly formed partnership that has not developed relations with the IRS yet]. Please feel free to ask any other questions of Roxy. We'll make sure they are answered and are part of the transcript we will have. Thanks so much Roxy, for answering our questions. We don't want our caregivers to miss out on Melinda these important credits and the stimulus payments. All the information you will share with me will be sent to our Network along with the transcript. Thank you so much for joining us and sharing this information with us! Rolanda Thank you Roxy A transcript of this chat and the attachments will be available soon! Thank Melinda you all for joining us! Thank you so much for allowing me to join this web chat. I hope the info was helpful and as Melinda mentioned, if you have any unanswered questions, Roxy please feel free to contact me: email@example.com or 202-408-1080. Thanks so much and have a great day! Laura_Lou Thank You! Carolyn- This was a helpful update. Thanks to Melinda and Rolanda for bringing to the Yonkers RAPP Roxy provided this additional information after the chat: Tax Preparation Information: Contact the IRS helpline: 1-800-829-1040. RAPPs can also identify AARP Tax-Aide sites by visiting www.aarp.org/money/taxaide. Fact Sheet on State Earned Income Tax Credits: www.cbpp.org/eic2008/docs/state-eitc.pdf Social Security and Veterans Fliers on the Stimulus Package: Social Security Flier: www.irs.gov/pub/irs-news/irs_pub_4663_ssa.pdf Social Security Flier - In Spanish: www.irs.gov/pub/newsroom/ssa_esp_flyer_sp.pdf Veterans Affair Flier: www.irs.gov/pub/irs-news/esp_p4664revised.pdf Veteran’s Affair Flier – In Spanish: www.irs.gov/pub/newsroom/va_esp_flyer_sp.pdf More information on the Economic Stimulus Package can be found on the IRS website: www.irs.gov. Links to all Economic Stimulus Payment information are available. The website includes other marketing materials, news releases, Public Service Announcements, Frequently Asked Questions and a lot more. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is almost done completing their outreach flier and Roxy will send it to us when available.
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