Insider NJ

NJCA Launches 2020 Free Tax Services, NJ Leaders Tout EITC

Insider NJ — February 11, 2021

Newark, NJ — On Wednesday, New Jersey Citizen Action (NJCA) kicked off the 2020 tax season and the annual opening of its free tax preparation office with a virtual event featuring Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, State Senator Teresa Ruiz, NJ State Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio, and representatives from the IRS and NJCA partners. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), an important resource for economic mobility and security, as well as relief from the COVID-19 crisis, was at the forefront of discussion.

"Our tax office and free preparation services are an important resource for working families, especially now during the COVID-19 crisis," added Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, NJCA Executive Director. "Since 2007, our staff have helped over 50,000 households earning up to $60,000 file their taxes in English and Spanish, netting those clients over $90 million total in savings and refunds. The positive impact of these services and the EITC on our communities cannot be understated."

The EITC reduces the taxes owed and/or increases the refund for low- to moderate-income individuals and families. The minimum eligible age was recently lowered from 24 to 21, and several federal and state efforts to further expand EITC benefits are ongoing. This includes eligibility for families without children or families with non-child dependents, increasing benefit levels, and further lowering the eligible age to 18.

"While wages have stagnated, the costs of healthcare, education and childcare continue to rise and the aspirations of millions of Americans are falling further and further out of reach," said Representative Watson Coleman (NJ-12). "That's why I've introduced the EITC Modernization Act. Expanding the EITC — one of our most successful anti-poverty measures — to students and caregivers will provide economic stability to communities that so desperately need it while recognizing the needs of our changing economy."

The EITC is one of the most effective policies and investments for lifting people out of poverty. In the 2018 tax season, the federal and state EITCs benefitted over 576,000 New Jersey workers and infused $1.4 billion into their communities. Still, each year thousands of people in New Jersey do not claim their rightful credit and miss out on crucial financial help. With EITC qualifications changing often, low and moderate income New Jerseyans should check each year if they are eligible. Contact NJCA at 1-888-829-3711 or visit the NJCA website to learn more.

"This year the Murphy Administration is making more money available to more people than ever before under the Earned Income Tax Credit program. However, we estimate that roughly a quarter of eligible taxpayers do not take advantage of this program, leaving hard-earned cash on the table. At a time when so many families are struggling to make ends meet while the pandemic continues to rage around us, we want to make sure every eligible taxpayer takes advantage of this resource. With the help of Citizen Action, we hope to change all that. We encourage all of our partners to use our online marketing toolkit to help spread the word," said State Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio.

"I am incredibly grateful for the work Citizen Action does each year to help New Jersey residents prepare their taxes, ensuring they are taking advantage of all available credits," commented Senator Ruiz (LD-29). "Even during these challenging times, the organization has adapted its programming to connect families to these critically needed services. Getting money back in the hands of our residents through the earned income tax credit can make a world of difference."

NJCA offers free tax preparation services as part of its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs. To stop the spread of COVID-19 in the 2020 tax season, all NJCA tax preparation in 2021 will be conducted remotely.

Salowe-Kaye continued, "Every dollar invested in the EITC program is a dollar well spent on reducing income inequality in New Jersey. As one of the states' largest free tax preparation agencies, NJCA has seen the EITC transform the economic well-being of thousands of families. We urge the Legislature and Congress to enact further expansions so no taxpayer in need is left behind."

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