Tax Credits Help Working Families, Seniors
By State Senator Julie Lassa
By now, most of us have our W2s and other tax forms in hand and are preparing to file our tax returns. I find that many of my constituents may not realize that they could qualify for tax breaks they may not have qualified for previously. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Homestead Credit are two such tax breaks specifically designed to help lower income working families or seniors on a fixed income.
A significant number of people living in the 24th Senate District are taking advantage of these credits. For the 2014 tax year, 11,474 filers claimed the EITC in Adams, Jackson, Monroe, Portage, Waushara and Wood counties – just over 10 percent of all taxpayers. That same year, 9,815 taxpayers in these counties claimed the Homestead Credit and received an average $503.
Tax credits are different than tax deductions, because they directly reduce the tax you pay. Plus, you can generally claim these credits for past tax years, if you were eligible for them.
The EITC is a federal refundable tax credit. You may qualify if your earned income and adjusted gross income are both less than:
- $47,747 ($53,267 married filing jointly) with three or more qualifying children;
- $44,454 ($49,974 married filing jointly) with two qualifying children;
- $39,131 ($44,651 married filing jointly) with one qualifying child;
- $14,820 ($20,330 married filing jointly) with no qualifying children.
The maximum credit for the 2015 tax year is $6,269. A number of restrictions apply, so be sure to check out the IRS Web site at www.irs.gov/Individuals/Do-I-Qualify-for-EITC%3F, or see the instructions for Form 1040 or Form 1040A for more details. The IRS Live Assistance line is (800) 829-1040.
There is also a Wisconsin EITC. You qualify for it if you can claim the federal EITC and have at least one qualifying child; it is based on a percentage of your federal EITC credit depending on how many qualified children you have. The maximum Wisconsin EITC for 2015 is up to 34 percent of your federal EITC credit, again based on the number of qualified children.
Low-income Wisconsin residents who own or rent a dwelling may qualify for the state Homestead Credit. Your “homestead” is the Wisconsin home you occupy, whether you own it or rent it, and up to one acre of land adjoining it (or up to 120 acres of land if the homestead is part of a farm). A homestead could be a house, an apartment, a rented room, a mobile home, a farm, or a nursing home room. The Homestead Credit represents a portion of the property tax you paid, either directly or through your rent.
You may qualify for the Wisconsin Homestead Credit if your household income was less than $24,680 for 2015. The maximum credit for 2015 is $1,460. For instructions on determining your eligibility and calculating your credit, review the Department of Revenue website, www.revenue.wi.gov/individuals/homestead.html, or see the instructions for Schedules H and H-EZ. The DOR phone number for help with the Homestead Credit is (608) 266-8641.
Several human service agencies provide volunteer tax assistance to help you identify credits you may be eligible for. CAP Services offers free tax preparation services for low to moderate income individuals and families in Portage, Waupaca and Waushara Counties. Residents of Portage County can call United Way’s 2-1-1 to schedule an appointment for tax preparation services at Mid-State Technical College in Stevens Point. Residents of Waupaca and Waushara counties can call 1-800-660-5430 to schedule an appointment in Clintonville, New London, Waupaca or Wautoma.
The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Programs also offer free tax help for taxpayers who qualify. Services are available at such locations as the Sparta Barney Community Center, the Tomah VA Medical Center, and a number of area technical colleges.For help locating tax assistance, visit irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep or call 1-800-906-9887.
I hope that you find this information about the EITC and the Homestead tax credits useful as the April 18 tax deadline approaches.
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