An ad placed on a Metrobus promotes free tax filings in D.C. (Courtesy of WMATA)
An ad placed on a Metrobus promotes free tax filings in D.C. (Courtesy of WMATA)

Since its founding in 1996 by several nonprofit organizations each committed to creating opportunities for D.C.’s low- and moderate-income households hoping for greater financial independence and future financial security, Capital Area Asset Builders (CAAB) has provided programs that both invest in people and strengthen communities from the greater D.C. region.

Building on a legacy during which CAAB has successfully assisted individuals and families reach their goals by improving their money management skills, teaching the rubrics for building savings and offering instruction on more prudent investment yielding to greater wealth, the District-based organization continues to develop initiatives from which all Washingtonians can benefit.

And while the deadline to file 2019 tax returns and pay any tax owed draws near (Wednesday, April 15), many workers may remain unaware of potential ways to increase their refunds — even if they have only worked part-time or feel their income is too meager to bother filing.

But there’s good news, according to CAAB through greater awareness about its DC EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit) Campaign — an often-ignored policy which for the last four decades has served as one of the most effective means of alleviating poverty for taxpayers both at the federal and state levels.

CAAB Executive Director Joseph Leitmann-Santa Cruz shares the highlights of the campaign which he says when properly utilized can result in a “significant amount of money returning to the pockets of thousands of low-income families in the District.”

“Last tax season, over 49,000 low-income Washingtonians claimed EITC at both the federal and state levels — an impressive number of citizens — but we estimate that another 20,000 families were eligible but because they did not file a tax form left as estimated $40 million on the table and in the coffers of Uncle Sam,” he said. “And that’s money which remains unclaimed each year.”

“A family that made up to 25,000 in income, either through W2, 1099 work or other means of self-employment that files taxes and has children in the house, are potentially eligible at both levels. Ultimately, it depends on the total generated income and the number of children so this is significant for households in the District, many of whom don’t even know about it or whether they are eligible to claim this refundable tax credit.”

“That’s why we’re reaching out to Washingtonians now through April 15 and supporting the community and faith-based organizations that are providing tax services. Still, it’s important to note that tax preparation is not regulated so you have beware of who you engage for service. The District has the nation’s highest cost for paid tax preparation and Black and Latino families are taken advantage for more than whites.”

Leitmann-Santa Cruz says that while the national average for services stands at $273, some families paid between $400 and $1,200 even though they may have generated far less than white families during the year.

“This is outrageous and we want people to know that they don’t need to waste their hard-earned money when there are free tax services like our or those we endorse that are trustworthy, including the United Planning Organization, Catholic Charities of the Archdioceses of Washington or Community Tax Aid.”

He adds that even immigrants or returning citizens, those who typically only work a few months of the year, must file a tax return with the Internal Revenue Service and the D.C. government. First it’s the law, he says, but even more it’s the only way they, or others, can secure dollars available under the EITC policy.

“EITC is one of the very few components within the U.S. tax code actually created for the benefit of hard-working, low-income families who live in D.C. or other parts of the country,” he said. “That’s why we’re so passionate about people knowing about it and ensuring that they receive their refunds. It can be a game-changer and get families on the road for retirement, paying for college, launching a business or paying a deposit for their first home.”

CAAB’s EITC awareness is made possible through the support from the DC Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking (DISB), Washington Gas and United Way of the National Capital Area, as well as other key private sector partners.

D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Dominic Kevin McNeir is an award-winning journalist with more than 25 years of service for the Black Press (NNPA). Prior to moving East to assist his aging parents in their struggles with Alzheimer’s,...

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