Last week Just Harvest reported the results of a successful tax season for the Money in Your Pocket Campaign with 4,818 low-income taxpayers using the free tax service and receiving refunds totaling $6,264,425.
Next year their refunds may be even larger due to new legislation introduced in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives that would create a state Earned Income Tax Credit at a rate of 30 percent of the national level (HB 377).
This is the first year that organizations providing free tax assistance joined together to form the Money in Your Pocket Campaign, allowing these organizations and volunteers to work together to provide better assistance to low income taxpayers. These taxpayers, with an average income of $17,000, saved hundreds of dollars by avoiding high tax preparation fees at commercial preparers and received all of the tax credits for which they were eligible.
Money in Your Pocket Campaign members included Just Harvest, Parental Stress Center, IRS, UCP Pittsburgh, North Shore Community Alliance, Westmoreland Human Opportunities, Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation, ACORN, Carnegie Library Downtown and the Monroeville Mall.
Half of the refunded dollars came from the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a tax credit for low-income workers of up to $4,536 per family and the nation's most successful anti-poverty program.
In 2004, 60 percent of EITC recipients in Allegheny County paid someone to prepare their tax return and 30 percent purchased an expensive and predatory Refund Anticipation Loan to receive their refund more quickly. Just three percent of EITC recipients received free assistance, and the Money in Your Pocket Campaign is working to increase those numbers.