Know Your Rights – Tax Credits and Free Professional Tax Preparation and Filing Opportunities

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By Danilo Powell-Lima

Tax season is once again in full swing, but the lasting economic impacts of COVID-19 linger. Here’s what you should know about available resources that may provide direct financial relief:

  • If you were one of the millions of people who still have not received one or both of your Economic Impact Payments, more commonly known as a stimulus check, filing your taxes is an opportunity to claim that missed income. When you file your taxes, you can claim that missed payment or payments as a tax credit. For example, if you were set to owe $2,600 for this upcoming filing, but did not receive $2,600 in Economic Impact Payments, your liability drops to $0.
  • Working families and individuals may qualify for a larger refund via the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC is designed to provide a tax break for workers with low-to-moderate incomes and their families. You may qualify for the EITC if you are:
    • A grandparent caregiver
    • A foster parent
    • A victim of abuse
    • Earning a low income at work and have no children
    • A family or individual with excessive debt
    • A person with disabilities earning a low income
    • Recently unemployed
    • A person with limited English proficiency earning a low income

Think you may qualify? Visit https://apps.irs.gov/app/eitc/ to use the IRS’s official EITC to see if you qualify and to learn more.

  • If taking advantage of these opportunities seems intimidating, don’t worry. You may be eligible for free tax preparation from a licensed professional. Here’s how to access these services in Northeast Ohio:
    • Cuyahoga County residents can receive free tax preparation and filing via the Cuyahoga Earned Income Tax Assistance Coalition, which is part of the IRS’ Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program. This free filing service is available for those with household incomes under $57,000 who don’t own rental properties. “We save a taxpayer on average $300 to $450 that they’d otherwise be spending on a paid preparer,” said Andre Ross, Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator for the Coalition. Visit RefundOhio.org to schedule an appointment. Virtual and socially distant in-person consultations are available.
    • Lorain County residents looking for free tax preparation should contact the Lorain County Free Tax Prep Coalition. Most families and individuals making under $60,000 are eligible. Call 211 to have your questions answered and to schedule an appointment at the appropriate location. To learn more, visit https://www.loraincountyfreetaxprep.org/
    • Lake County residents looking for free tax preparation can schedule an appointment by calling 211, which is sponsored by Lifeline, Inc.
    • If you live in Ashtabula, Geauga, or another county and are interested in free tax preparation programs, you can use a site locator tool on the IRS’s website (www.irs.gov). The tool allows you to type in your zip code and find professional free filing opportunities near you.

Remember: the deadline to file your 2020 taxes is April 15, 2021.

If you are dealing with a legal issue related to taxes, contact Legal Aid for help by visiting lasclev.org/contact – our online intake is open 24/7. Or you can call Legal Aid’s toll-free number 888-817-3777 and apply for help during most business hours. Legal Aid has a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic that helps people who are facing controversies with the IRS.