Claim what's due you: Low-wage workers should use tax credit

For three decades, the federal government has offered a helping hand to low-wage workers through the Earned Income Tax Credit. The credit can put thousands of dollars into the pockets of families who are struggling to make ends meet.

Problem is, many people who are eligible to claim the credit don't take advantage of the opportunity. Some are unaware that it exists, while others hesitate to go through a process that they fear will require an overwhelming pile of paperwork and yield only a small amount of money. Such fears are unwarranted. There is a certain amount of work involved in documenting that you qualify for the EITC, but the rewards can be substantial. For example, a single person with no children and an income of $11,750 can qualify for a credit of up to $399, while a married couple with two children and an income of $37,263 may get as much as $4,440. That is hardly chump change.

Unfortunately, thousands of Calhoun County residents who qualify for the credit don't claim it.

Nancy Macfarlane, who recently was named executive director of the Community Action Agency of South Central Michigan and also serves on the Battle Creek City Commission, is on a mission to spread the word about the EITC and encourage eligible wage-earners to claim it. She wants people to know that if they qualify, they can claim the credit for as far back as 2003.

If you think you might qualify for the EITC, there are a number of resources to help you, some of which are listed with reporter Robert Warner's stories that start on today's front page. Logging on to, for example, provides an easy-to-answer list of questions that can help you determine if you are eligible.

Big business and people in high-income brackets often retain experts to make sure they take advantage of very possible tax incentive. It's equally important that low-wage earners be able to claim the tax breaks that are due them as well.

We support Macfarlane's efforts to promote awareness of the EITC and encourage more people to claim the credit. It's important for all of us to talk about the EITC to people who we think might qualify, and let them know how it can help them.

As Macfarlane points out, not only is the EITC beneficial to individuals and families, but our entire community will benefit from having those extra dollars circulating in the local economy.


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