Friday, January 30, 2009

Free tax-refund help available this weekend

The Internal Revenue Service is opening its three Kansas City area walk-in tax offices, and about 170 others across the U.S. this weekend to help low income working tax payers claim some bigger refunds they may be missing.

The effort, which may put as much as a $4,800 bigger refund in the hands of qualifying households with incomes between $12,880 and $41,646, is part of an IRS drive to help taxpayers struggling with tough economic conditions, Commissioner Doug Shulman said in a telephone press conference.

"We are going the extra mile to make sure that every single taxpayer who qualifies can claim every cent coming to them," Shulman said.

Specifically, IRS is opening Kansas City and other walk-in offices between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. this Saturday and on Feb. 7 and Feb. 21, to help low income taxpayers file their claims for what are known as Earned Income Tax Credits. ETICs, as they are known in tax lingo, are a specific kind of refund created three decades ago to help offset Social Security and other payroll taxes collected from low income working taxpayers who are least able to afford them.

IRS paid $48 billion in EITC refunds to 24 million taxpayers last year, but still probably missed 20 percent to 25 percent of potentially eligible recipients who didn't file for the money, Shulman said.

The refunds can be as large as $4,800, but more typically run about $1,900 or $2,000, IRS officials say. Who is eligible for them depends on their income level, family size and their filing status. Precise calculations can be tricky, which is one of the reasons why IRS is opening three Saturdays to help claimants who aren't able to leave work during the week.

The Kansas City area offices are in the Hillcrest Bank building at 5800 Bannister Road in Kansas City, 5799 Broadmoor in Mission, and 3730 South Elizabeth Avenue in Independence.

Similar free help is available at nearly 12,000 Volunteer Income Assistance, or VITA and Tax Counseling for the Elderly or TCE sites in libraries, community halls and other designated sites across Kansas City and the nation. More information is available on the IRS Web site, at the service's toll free number 1-800-829-1040, and from AARP at its Website or at 1-888-227-7669.

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