Are you eligible for the earned income credit?

For Immediate Release

Everywhere, USA – Workers may get a larger tax refund this year because of the Earned Income Tax Credit, but you must file a tax return to claim it!  Tomorrow, January 26, 2018, is Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day, a nationwide effort to increase awareness about EITC and free tax preparation sites.

What is the EITC? The Earned Income Tax Credit is an anti-poverty measure administered through the tax system to low and moderate income families with children.  For some families, this credit can represent up to a third of their total income for the year.

Who is eligible? The Earned Income Credit can be claimed by parents or legal guardians only.  CPS placements, Powers of Attorney, or other informal arrangements are not good enough.  There are also residency, citizenship, and support requirements.  A reputable tax preparer will be able to analyze your situation to ensure you qualify.

Some parents believe that the credit is theirs to give away and allow a relative or friend claim their child.  This is not allowed and is considered fraud.  The EITC is actually attached to the child and only a parent or legal guardian is allowed to claim it.  This situation is most common when parents live with family or friends that have helped them provide support to their children.  The IRS has become much more efficient and diligent in catching this fraudulent use of the EITC. They will audit and the person who unlawfully claimed the credit will have to pay it back along with penalties and interest.  This can even lead to the parent being banned from taking the credit for a period of up to ten years.

Some parents with custody arrangements agree to let the noncustodial parent claim some benefits related to the children.  While this may apply to the dependency exemption or the child tax credit, it does not apply to the EITC.

If you are self-employed and claiming the EITC, it is crucial that you maintain records of your income and business expenses.  The IRS audits self-employed people at a higher rate than employees because of the greater potential for fraud.

People with no children can also claim the EITC! However, if you’re filing as single, you must make under $15,010 annually or less than $20,600 if filing jointly with your spouse. You also still have to meet the general EITC rules; you can’t be someone else’s dependent and you have to be between the 25 and 65 years of age.

The IRS can audit you for the past three years or even longer if there is a reasonable belief that there is fraud involved. Remember that if you sign a tax return, you are agreeing that everything on it is correct.  If there are fraudulent items on your return, you will be held responsible.  Don’t be fooled by tax preparers who promise to get you a higher refund – your refund should only reflect what you are actually eligible for.

Do research on your tax preparer and make sure they are reputable.  If you make less than $55,000 a year, you are eligible for free tax preparation assistance through the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance programs.  You can find one in your area by going to www.irs.gov/vita or by calling 800-906-9887.  The AARP also runs a Tax Counseling for the Elderly program for people 60 and over.  These programs are staffed by trained volunteers.  Most people who make under $55,000 have fairly simple returns, so you should not be paying hundreds of dollars for tax preparation.

Visit our Low Income Taxpayer Clinic‘s page for more information on how we can help as well as other resources and IRS tax tips.

Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves the millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and also 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and well‐being; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, such as those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, visit our website at www.lonestarlegal.org.

Media contact: Clarissa Ayala

This release was written by our Low Income Taxpayer Clinic Director, Karyna Lopez.  Ms. Lopez holds a B.A. from Miami University, a J.D. from Loyola University New Orleans School of Law, and an LL.M. in Tax Law from University of Houston Law Center.

W.M. Keck Foundation Awards Lone Star Legal Aid $250,000 Hurricane Harvey Relief Grant

For Immediate Release

Houston, TX — The W.M. Keck Foundation has awarded Lone Star Legal Aid a $250,000 grant to support LSLA’s program-wide Hurricane Harvey relief efforts by providing additional staff and resources in its Disaster Relief Unit. The attorneys and paralegals in this unit assist survivors with the complex legal issues that arise after a disaster.

The W.M. Keck Foundation was established in 1954 in Los Angeles by William Myron Keck, the founder of The Superior Oil Company. “Mr. Keck envisioned a philanthropic institution that would provide far-reaching benefits to humanity.”[1] Today, the Foundation continues Mr. Keck’s vision and primarily supports science, engineering, and medical research as well as undergraduate research programs.

Although the Foundation does not usually fund legal services are outside of the Los Angeles area, it decided to make a special Hurricane Harvey relief grant to Lone Star Legal Aid as a way of giving back to the hometown of Superior Oil.  W.M. Keck founded Superior Oil Company in Houston, Texas in 1921.  The company was sold to Mobil Oil in 1984, and the proceeds funded much of the W.M. Keck Foundation’s endowment.

The W.M. Keck Foundation’s generous gift to Lone Star Legal Aid will result in critically important benefits for Hurricane Harvey survivors. With disaster legal services, Lone Star Legal Aid attorneys and paralegals are able to assist survivors with relocation and transitional housing; evictions and lease terminations; foreclosures; home repair scams; insurance claims and appeals; property rights, title-clearing, property related probate or tax problems, and of course a large number of FEMA appeals.

Lone Star Legal Aid’s Director of Disaster Legal Services, Saundra Brown, stated that “providing us with valuable resources we wouldn’t normally be able to afford, including the opportunity to add additional staff, will allow us to assist greater numbers of Harvey survivors and successfully resolve the short- and long-term legal problems they face. We’ve spent years over 15 years helping tens of thousands of disaster survivors and we are ready to help survivors of Harvey as well.”

The W. M. Keck Foundation seeks to generate far-reaching benefits for humanity by supporting pioneering discoveries in science, engineering and medicine, and organizations that enrich the lives of children, youth, and families.  For more information about the W. M. Keck Foundation, visit http://wmkeck.org.

Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves the millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and also 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and well‐being; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, such as those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, visit our website at www.lonestarlegal.org.

Media Contact: Clarissa Ayala

 

[1] http://wmkeck.org/about-us/history

Lone Star Legal Aid’s Houston Staff Donates Toys to Star of Hope Mission

Houston, TX – Lone Star Legal Aid’s Team Houston Director, Roslyn Jackson, started a new holiday tradition – a toy drive benefiting the children living at Star of Hope Mission.  At this year’s annual holiday breakfast, staff arrived with toys in hand.

“We are currently getting ready for Christmas. Thank you for your desire to give to Star of Hope,” said Michelle Bates, Volunteer Liason at SOHM. The collected toys were delivered this morning.

Star of Hope Mission is dedicated to meeting the needs of homeless men, women, and children.

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Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves the millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and also 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and wellbeing; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, such as those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, visit our website at www.lonestarlegal.org.

Media Contact: Clarissa Ayala

Lone Star Legal Aid Joins the Global #GivingTuesday Movement

Giving Tuesday

Houston, TX- Lone Star Legal Aid has joined #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving that harnesses the collective power of individuals, communities, and organizations to encourage philanthropy and to celebrate generosity worldwide.

Occurring this year on November 28, #GivingTuesday is held annually on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving (in the US) and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday to kick off the holiday giving season and inspire people to collaborate in improving their local communities and to give back in impactful ways to the charities and causes they support.

This year, Lone Star Legal Aid joined #GivingTuesday to help with its rebuilding efforts.  After Hurricane Harvey dumped record-breaking rainfall in the Houston area, a fire engulfed LSLA’s downtown Houston headquarters.  While staff continues to carry out its mission from temporary space, LSLA needs help funding the rebuild of its home office.

Those who are interested in joining Lone Star Legal Aid’s #GivingTuesday initiative can make a donation here.

For more details about the #GivingTuesday movement, visit the #GivingTuesday website (www.givingtuesday.org), Facebook page (www.facebook.com/GivingTuesday) or follow @GivingTues and the #GivingTuesday hashtag on social media.

#GivingTuesday is a global giving movement that was built by individuals, families, organizations, businesses, and communities in all 50 states and in countries around the world. It inspires people to take collective action to improve their communities, give back in better, smarter ways to the charities and causes they believe in, and help create a better world. #GivingTuesday demonstrates how every act of generosity counts, and that they mean even more when we give together.

Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves the millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and also 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and well‐being; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, such as those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, visit our website at www.lonestarlegal.org.

Media contact: Clarissa Ayala