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Q&A with Christina Vass: Nearly a quarter of Oklahoma households are leaving money on the table by not taking advantage of a tax credit

This Feb. 13, 2019, file photo shows multiple forms printed from the Internal Revenue Service web page that are used for 2018 U.S. federal tax returns. [AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File]
This Feb. 13, 2019, file photo shows multiple forms printed from the Internal Revenue Service web page that are used for 2018 U.S. federal tax returns. [AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File]

Mayor David Holt declared Jan. 31 as EITC Awareness Day in Oklahoma City, a time for Oklahomans to find out more about this often overlooked tax benefit. What is the Earned Income Tax Credit?

Every year, Oklahomans leave millions of dollars on the table because they don’t claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). EITC is an annual refund that supports the financial stability of low- and moderate-income workers by reducing their federal tax burden. Additionally, EITC is a tax benefit for working people that reduces the amount of taxes you owe and often gives you a refund.

Who qualifies for EITC?

EITC is for workers who make $56,000 or less a year and are between the ages of 25 and 64. The amount of the refund increases depending on the number of children in the household and is often between $2,000 to $6,000 per eligible person. In 2018, the average Oklahoma EITC refund was $2,470, but individuals can't get their return if they don’t file their taxes.

How does EITC affect Oklahomans?

It is estimated that one in six Oklahomans and one in five Oklahoma children live in a household with an income below the poverty line, and that 23% of EITC-eligible households in Oklahoma are not claiming the refund. Recent data reports that 55,769 EITC returns were filed in Oklahoma City, resulting in more than $143.6 million in the pockets of the city’s citizens.

However, it is estimated that $147 million in new federal dollars is left on the table each year that could be injected back into Oklahoma’s local economy, and research suggests that the refund could create local economic impacts equivalent to at least twice the amount of EITC dollars received.

What do Oklahomans need to know about claiming this refund?

First, know that help is available. OKC Tax Help is a new resource dedicated to providing free and low-cost tax help to Oklahomans who qualify for EITC. Visit their site OKCTaxHelp.org for a comprehensive list of resources and the answers to many frequently asked questions. Resources, such as MyFreeTaxes.com, can also connect you with tax professionals, and are easy-to-use, secure and guaranteed to be accurate.

Additionally, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites are currently open across Oklahoma City, which can provide you with high-quality tax preparation, financial stability services and connections to other community services, oftentimes at little or no cost. You can also find a list of the VITA sites open in Oklahoma City by visiting OKC Tax Help’s website.

Paula Burkes, Business writer

Related Photos
<strong>Christina Vass is the VITA program director for the Community Action Agency of Oklahoma City and OK/CN Counties Inc.</strong>

Christina Vass is the VITA program director for the Community Action Agency of Oklahoma City and OK/CN Counties Inc.

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-20334497be7ba954dd7895af06ba2487.jpg" alt="Photo - Christina Vass is the VITA program director for the Community Action Agency of Oklahoma City and OK/CN Counties Inc. " title=" Christina Vass is the VITA program director for the Community Action Agency of Oklahoma City and OK/CN Counties Inc. "><figcaption> Christina Vass is the VITA program director for the Community Action Agency of Oklahoma City and OK/CN Counties Inc. </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-5e2791f94288c6d90263a959c69d7670.jpg" alt="Photo - This Feb. 13, 2019, file photo shows multiple forms printed from the Internal Revenue Service web page that are used for 2018 U.S. federal tax returns. [AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File] " title=" This Feb. 13, 2019, file photo shows multiple forms printed from the Internal Revenue Service web page that are used for 2018 U.S. federal tax returns. [AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File] "><figcaption> This Feb. 13, 2019, file photo shows multiple forms printed from the Internal Revenue Service web page that are used for 2018 U.S. federal tax returns. [AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File] </figcaption></figure>
Paula Burkes

Paula Burkes has nearly 40 years' experience writing and editing award-winning material, including since early 2001 with the business desk of The Oklahoman. After earning a journalism degree from Oklahoma State University in 1981, Paula wrote for... Read more ›

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