Justice in Motion: It’s tax time again — a few tips

For those of you itemizing tax-deductible donations, be sure to check the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website at http://apps.irs.gov/app/eos/ to confirm the entity to which you donate is in good standing. A law was changed in 2006-2007 requiring smaller tax-exempt entities to start submitting annual reports by 2009-2010. Notwithstanding outreach reminding these tax-exempt entities to start submitting these reports, many failed to do so and their tax exempt status has been revoked. Many revocations occurred quite some time ago and entities do not realize it has occurred and are continuing to accept donations that are no longer tax-deductible.

In a brief perusal of the revocations on the IRS website for Grays Harbor cities, Aberdeen has 62 revocations, Hoquiam 30, Montesano 23, Elma 21, Ocean Shores 16, McCleary 7, Westport 8, etc. These revocations include different types of tax-exempt entities (not just 501(c)(3) entities), including fraternal orders, armed forces posts, granges, booster clubs, community education, historical societies, civic and social welfare groups, social and recreational clubs, business leagues and chambers of commerce, labor organizations, voluntary employees’ beneficiary associations, etc.

If you find an entity on the list to which you have donated in the past or intend to in the future, contact them to find out more about their present status. Some entities intentionally allowed the revocations to occur and now exist under a fiscal sponsorship or operate under another tax-exempt entity’s status.

Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) and Other Tax Credits:

These credits are again available to working families and may result in an income tax refund, even if you did not owe taxes in 2013.

The EITC is a federal income tax credit for low-income working families and is a refundable credit, which means even if you owe little or no income tax, this credit is part of your tax refund. Many who are eligible for this credit do not file an income tax return or know about the credit.

There’s a useful checklist to see if you qualify at www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p3524.pdf.

For the 2013 EITC, the Internal Revenue Service website states:

Earned income and adjusted gross income (AGI) must each be less than:

• $46,227 ($51,567 married filing jointly) with three or more qualifying children

• $43,038 ($48,378 married filing jointly) with two qualifying children

• $37,870 ($43,210 married filing jointly) with one qualifying child

• $14,340 ($19,680 married filing jointly) with no qualifying children

Tax Year 2013 maximum credit:

• $6,044 with three or more qualifying children

• $5,372 with two qualifying children

• $3,250 with one qualifying child

• $487 with no qualifying children

Investment income must be $3,300 or less for the year.

Two other tax credits may be available to help households raising children: the Child Tax Credit and the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (the latter credit is not refundable; it only reduces taxes you owe).

To take advantage of these tax credits, you MUST file a federal income tax return, even if you do not earn enough to owe any income taxes. Taxpayers have until April 15, 2014 to file their 2013 tax returns and pay any tax due. If you itemize deductions (using Form 1040 Schedule A), you should wait until mid-February as there are often updates in the tax laws.

Free Tax Preparation and Filing Services

You may be eligible for free assistance preparing and filing your income tax return. Go to: www.irs.gov/Individuals/Find-a-Location-for-Free-Tax-Prep for this year’s locations. The list may be furtehr updated and typically the sites open in February (usually by appointment).

AARP provides free tax help to people age 60 and older through its Tax-Aide program (located at several local libraries). For locations, go to www.aarp.org/money/taxes/aarp_taxaide/ or call 1-888-OUR-AARP (1-888-687-2277).

You can also file your tax return electronically for free, using IRS’s Free File, available at www.icanefile.org.

To find out if you are eligible for Northwest Justice Project services:

For cases including youth (Individualized Education Program and school discipline issues), debt collection cases and tenant evictions, please call for a local intake appointment at (360) 533-2282 or toll free (866) 402-5293. No walk-ins, please.

For all other legal issues, please call our toll-free intake and referral hotline commonly known as “CLEAR” (Coordinated Legal Education Advice and Referral) at 1-888-201-1014, Mondays through Fridays 9:10 a.m. to 12:25 p.m. If you are a senior, 60 and over, please call 1-888-387-7111; you may be eligible regardless of income. Language interpreters are available. You can also complete an application for services at nwjustice.org/get-legal-help. Be sure to also check out our law library at: www.washingtonlawhelp.org.

Sarah Glorian is the senior attorney for the Aberdeen office of the Northwest Justice Project, a private, non-profit legal aid organization providing free representation to low-income residents in Grays Harbor and Pacific counties.


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