Rhode Island residents who make $54,000 a year or less may be entitled to an earned income tax credit as well as free tax preparation.
The Rhode Island Community Action Association (RICAA), Providence VITA Coalition, Citizens Bank, and the United Way of Rhode Island are partnering to launched a public awareness campaign at the Rhode Island State House this morning to announce the campaign promoting free tax preparation.
The campaign will educate Rhode Islanders of the IRS’ Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) program and its benefits to individuals and married couples who are hard-working Rhode Islanders receiving tax credits for wages earned both at the federal and state levels.
Rachel Flum, executive director of the Economic Progress Institute spoke representing a coalition of 30 groups dedicated to increasing the state EITC to 20 percent, of the federal rate, up from its current 15 percent. Bills introduced by Rep Scott Slater in the House and Senator Gayle Goldin in the Senate aim to do just that. The rate is 27.5 percent in Connecticut and 23 percent in Massachusetts, “so we know that there is room to move,” said Flum. Combined with an increase in the minimum wage “this could really be a catalyst helping our lower income families.”
Sara Morales works as a volunteer tax preparer at Federal Hill House and has personally benefited from the EITC. Morales has lived in Providence with Julio, her husband, for 18 years. She has two children, Julio 16 and Marcia 10. She describes her family as “hard working” and “doing their best to provide for her children.”
EITC helped her buy clothes for her children and pay for childcare. She set aside a little of each refund to save for a house “where we could raise our kids with comfort.”
In 2014, Morales and her husband bought their first home. They make more money, so they no longer qualify for EITC, but Morales now volunteers at Federal Hill House to help others realize the benefit. She hopes to go back to school to become an accountant.
Joanne McGunagle is President/CEO of Comprehensive Community Action and Board Chair of the RI Community Action Association, whose member network serves more than 200,000 Rhode Islanders each year.
“The maximum tax credit savings a filer can be eligible for is $6,143,” said McGunagle, “we see working Rhode Islanders struggling every day to meet the needs of their families. The Earned Income Tax Credit is a resource working families can use to offset expenses and to save for the future.”
In 2016, Earned Income Tax Credits combined with all other credits brought $16.7 million dollars to more than 14,000 residents in the state of Rhode Island through the free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program administered by the RICCA and the Providence VITA Coalition.
The VITA Program, now in its thirteenth year, offers certified tax preparation volunteers at VITA sites throughout Rhode Island including the Providence VITA Coalition and 8ht member agencies of Rhode Island Community Action Association. United Way of Rhode Island has funded the VITA sites since 2004 and contributed $157,000 to the program’s 24 locations in Rhode Island this year. Information on site locations and free tax preparation is available to all tax filers by calling United Way’s toll-free helpline, 2-1-1.
In addition, both coalitions received grants from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to assist with providing free tax preparation in Rhode Island.
Ben Lessing, President/CEO of Community Care Alliance:
“We’ve made progress over the last few years, helping hard-working Rhode Islanders keep more of what they earn by expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit,” said Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo. “It’s vitally important that families know about this credit so they can take advantage of it and put money back in their pockets. I’m thankful to the VITA program for offering this invaluable resource to working families.”
“The Earned Income Tax Credit can boost incomes for Rhode Islanders struggling with rising costs,” said U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. “I applaud our community action agencies, the Providence VITA Coalition, Citizens Bank, and the United Way for helping thousands of Rhode Islanders claim millions of dollars from this vital program.”
“Preparing and filing taxes doesn’t have to be a stressful experience, and for the many Rhode Islanders who qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), it can be a blessing. The EITC program makes a tremendous difference for those who need it most, and I’m grateful to these organizations for providing free tax preparation services so that more hardworking families can maximize their tax returns,” said US Representative James Langevin.
“The VITA/EITC Coalition plays an essential role in ensuring Rhode Island families have the resources they need to help make ends meet and, for many families, to escape poverty,” said US Representative David Cicilline. “Every year, this great partnership returns hard-earned money back to Rhode Island families. I want to thank all the partners in the coalition whose work ensures the success of these incredibly effective programs”
Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza
RI Treasurer Seth Magaziner
“Citizens Bank is pleased to support the EITC public awareness program for the tenth year”, says Barbara Cottam, Rhode Island Market Executive, Citizens Bank. “The tax credit benefits the hard working members of our community as well as the Rhode Island economy. Last year this program brought $16.7 million back to the state with more than $6.5 million directly from the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).”
Tony Maione, President/CEO United Way of Rhode Island: