Filers urged to use free tax help and skip rapid refund centers
Low- and moderate-income Michigan households will find useful information this tax season in the latest Money Back in Michigan report released by the Michigan League for Public Policy. By using free tax filing help and claiming all available credits, tax filers can put hundreds or even thousands of dollars back into their pockets.
The 2014 edition of Money Back in Michigan outlines seven federal and state tax credits available to low- and moderate-income families. The guide also encourages tax-filers to use free tax preparation services and skip expensive “rapid refund” centers that can eat up a portion of the refunds.
“That tax refund can make a positive difference in the lives of Michigan families. Not everyone is aware that they qualify for these credits, and that there is free help to file for them,’’ said League President & CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs. “It’s important that working families get all of their tax credits due to them.’’
Among the credits are the federal Earned Income Tax Credit and the Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit, aimed at offsetting taxes paid by lower-income working families. A married couple raising two children who earned $48,378 could get $6,054 back in state and federal EITCs, for example.
“With refunds so much lower than two years ago, it’s more important than ever for families to claim all the credits that are due, and to avoid what are essentially high-cost loans from rapid refund centers,’’ Jacobs said.
The Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit is 6 percent of the federal EITC, dropping from 20 percent in Tax Year 2011. Also reduced from two years ago is the Homestead Property Tax Credit. In addition, the $600 per child state child tax exemption was eliminated for Tax Years 2012 and beyond. The reductions are the result of the 2011 legislation that shifted income taxes from businesses to individuals.
Other credits detailed in Money Back in Michigan are the federal Child and Dependent Care Credit, the federal Child Tax Credit and the state Home Heating Credit. It’s important that renters know that the Michigan Home Heating Credit and the Homestead Property Tax Credit are available to income-eligible renters.
The Money Back in Michigan packet also encourages tax-filers to use IRS-trained volunteers for help in filing taxes. Visit http://www.michiganfreetaxhelp.org or call 2-1-1 (or 1-800-552-1183 if no answer) to find the closest Volunteer Income Tax Assistance site or to locate free software. And, of course, taxpayers can also find forms at post offices, libraries or by calling 1-800-TAXFORM, and file their own taxes.
Money Back in Michigan includes a series of fliers that can be printed and distributed at libraries, child care centers, municipal and county tax offices and other public areas to raise awareness of the tax breaks and refunds. It’s available at http://www.mlpp.org.
The Michigan League for Public Policy, http://www.mlpp.org, is a nonpartisan, state-level policy institute dedicated to economic opportunity for all. It convenes the Prosperity Coalition, http://www.prosperitycoalition.org.