EITC Awareness Day: Critical tax credit provides a significant refund boost to millions
WASHINGTON – The Internal Revenue Service and partners across the nation remind taxpayers about the Earned Income Tax Credit today on “EITC Awareness Day” 2021. The IRS and partners nationwide urge people to check to see if they qualify for this important credit.
“This year marks the 15th annual EITC Awareness Day,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “For more than 45 years, this tax credit has been helping hard-working Americans and their families. We want to thank our partners around the country who help us reach out to those low- and moderate-income people who may qualify and not even know about it.”
The IRS earlier announced that it will begin accepting 2020 tax returns on Feb. 12. In the meanwhile, people can file their taxes electronically using IRS Free File or other name-brand software. Once filing season officially opens, the returns will be electronically submitted for processing. The IRS reminds taxpayers that the quickest way to get a tax refund is by filing electronically and choosing direct deposit for their refund.
New look-back rule
Under the COVID-related Tax Relief Act of 2020, taxpayers can use their 2019 earned income to figure their 2020 EITC if their 2019 earned income was more than their 2020 earned income. To qualify for EITC, people must have earned income, so this option may help workers who earned less in 2020, or received unemployment income instead of their regular wages, get bigger tax credits and larger refunds in the coming year.
Also, any Economic Impact Payments received are not taxable or counted as income for purposes of claiming the EITC. Eligible individuals who did not receive the full amounts of both Economic Impact Payments may claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on their 2020 tax return. See IRS.gov/rrc for more information.
Vital refund boost
The EITC is the federal government’s largest refundable federal income tax credit for low- to moderate-income workers. For those who qualify, and if the credit is larger than the amount of tax they owe, they will receive a refund for the difference. While the majority of those eligible claim EITC every year, IRS estimates that one of five eligible taxpayers do not claim the credit.
Taxpayers earning $56,844 or less can see if they qualify using the EITC Assistant tool at www.irs.gov/eitc. The EITC Assistant, available in English and Spanish, helps users determine if they are eligible, have a qualifying child or children and estimates the amount of the EITC they may get. If an individual doesn’t qualify for the EITC, the Assistant explains why.
Nationwide in 2020, more than 25 million taxpayers received over $62 billion in EITC. The average EITC amount received was $2,461 per return. The EITC is worth as much as $6,660 for a family with three or more children or up to $538 for taxpayers who do not have a qualifying child.
By law, the IRS cannot issue refunds before mid-February for tax returns that claim the EITC or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC). The IRS must hold the entire refund − even the portion not associated with EITC or ACTC and the Recovery Rebate Credit if applicable. This helps ensure taxpayers receive the refund they deserve and gives the agency more time to detect and prevent errors and fraud.
‘Where’s My Refund?‘ on IRS.gov and the IRS2Go app will be updated with projected deposit dates for most early EITC/ACTC refund filers by Feb. 22. Therefore, EITC/ACTC filers will not see an update to their refund status for several days after Feb. 15. The IRS expects most EITC or ACTC related refunds to be available in taxpayer bank accounts or on debit cards by the first week of March, if they choose direct deposit and there are no other issues with their tax return.
Workers who can claim the EITC
Workers at risk for overlooking this important credit can include taxpayers:
- Without children
- Living in non-traditional families, such as a grandparent raising a grandchild
- Whose earnings declined or whose marital or parental status changed
- With limited English language skills
- Who are members of the armed forces
- Living in rural areas
- Who are Native Americans
- With disabilities or who provide care for a disabled dependent
Life events or changes may make people eligible for certain tax benefits like the EITC. The IRS urges people to use the EITC Assistant to check their eligibility for this valuable credit.
How to claim the EITC
To get the EITC, workers must file a tax return and claim the credit. Eligible taxpayers are urged to claim the credit even if their earnings were below the income requirement to file a tax return. Free tax preparation help is available online and through volunteer organizations.
Those eligible for the EITC have these options:
- Free File on IRS.gov. Free brand-name tax software is available that leads taxpayers through a question-and-answer format to help prepare the tax return and claim credits and deductions, if they are eligible. Free File also provides online versions of IRS paper forms, an option called Free File Fillable Forms, best suited for taxpayers comfortable preparing their own returns.
- Free tax preparation sites. EITC-eligible workers can seek free tax preparation at thousands of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) sites. To locate the nearest site, use the search tool on IRS.gov, the IRS2go smartphone application, or call toll-free 800-906-9887. They should be sure to bring along all required documents and information.
- Find a trusted tax professional. The IRS also reminds taxpayers that a trusted tax professional can prepare their tax return and provide helpful information and advice. Tips for choosing a return preparer and details about national tax professional groups are available on IRS.gov. EITC recipients should be careful not to be duped by an unscrupulous return preparer.
The IRS reminds taxpayers to be sure they have valid Social Security numbers (SSN) for themselves, their spouse, if filing a joint return, and for each qualifying child claimed for the EITC. The SSNs must be issued before the due date of the return, including extensions. There are special rules for those in the military or those out of the country.
Taxpayers are responsible for the accuracy of their tax return even if someone else prepares it for them. Since the rules claiming the EITC can be complex, the IRS urges taxpayers to understand all of them. People can find help to make sure they are eligible by visiting a free tax return preparation site, or using Free File software or by using a paid tax professional.
Beware of scams
Be sure to choose a tax preparer wisely. Beware of scams that claim to increase the EITC refund. Scams that create fictitious qualifying children or inflate income levels to get the maximum EITC could leave taxpayers with a penalty.
- EITC Central at www.eitc.irs.gov, helpful resources for IRS partners and others.
- Publication 596, Earned Income Credit (EIC)
- Tax Professionals, another place for valuable EITC resources and assistance.