9to5 Member: Earned income tax credit can be a lifesaver

By Dawn Marquantte, 9to5 Colorado Board Member (pictured left with her family)

January 30, 2014

Originally printed in The Denver Post

It was 1996, I was pregnant with my second child, and I was a part-time student, working while I studied at Community College of Denver.

There was never enough money to meet our needs in the house. I couldn’t stay current on the electric bill, buy food and clothing for the kids and have enough money for the bus. On top of everything, my young daughter had chronic asthma, which caused me to miss work at times.

Then a life-changing moment came in a conversation with a college counselor, who told me about something called the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC. I knew nothing about taxes and had never heard of it. It sounded complicated.

But it wasn’t at all. The counselor gave me the name of an organization that did my taxes for free. There are lots of places to get help, and you can find them going to piton.org.

The EITC helps working families, especially those like mine who have children, make ends meet by giving a tax credit that could be worth several thousand dollars. In 2010, the EITC helped more than 6.3 million families, with more than 345,000 taxpayers in Colorado receiving $719 million in federal EITC refunds.

I know it helped me back in 1996. When the refund came, it was worth nearly $1,900. I had never seen so much money before in my life.

I was finally able to pay off the electric bill, and I used $800 to buy a car — a used Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. To me, that car was a Mercedes. I was even able to pay for six months of car insurance.

Every year since then, I have filed my taxes and gotten an EITC refund, using it for everything from household expenses to paying student loans. For families like mine, it’s like winning the lottery. It’s the only time of the year we have a lump sum of money.

We still struggle with getting by. The Cutlass Supreme has long since died, and now my 11-year-old Dodge Intrepid needs a new engine. And we have all the usual expenses of a family. We really need that EITC refund again this year.

Friday is EITC Awareness Day, and there may still be many poor families out there that don’t know they qualify for the tax credit. You can find out if you quality by going to www.irs.gov/eitc

For many Coloradans, the EITC could be a lifesaver. That’s what it’s been for my family.

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