CHICAGO -- Governor George H. Ryan today announced the annual outreach effort to make low-income Illinoisans aware of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and all federal and state tax benefits to which they are entitled.
The Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) is reaching out to DHS customers, as well as those who have left DHS programs for jobs, and urging them to take advantage of the (EITC) and free tax counseling provided by the Tax Counseling Project and the Tax Assistance Program.
“The EITC, the major federal benefit for low and moderate-income families, can be worth as much as $4,008 to a family with two or more children,” Ryan said. “In addition, this is the second year for the new state EITC which can provide up to $200 in state income tax relief. Together, these benefits put money back into the pockets of Illinois’ working families.”
Last year, DHS led the successful effort to get the word out about the new state EITC. As a result, the number of working families receiving the credit exceeded the original estimates by nearly 15 percent.
“For many households, these benefits are critical to rising out of poverty and making the transition from dependency to lasting self-sufficiency,” said DHS Secretary Linda Reneé Baker. “We are conducting an extensive outreach campaign this year so that as many Illinois workers as possible are made aware of and apply for the EITC.”
EITC fact sheets have been provided to all DHS divisions for distribution to customers, field offices, contractors, service providers, community organizations. EITC information was mailed to 900,000 households in January. The State Comptroller’s office will include EITC messages with more than 200,000 W-2 and 1099 forms. DHS also partners with the State Chamber of Commerce, AFL-CIO, the Mayor’s Office in Chicago and other state agencies.
“Low-income working families, many of whom may be new to the workforce, often do not have access to affordable, professional tax preparation,” Baker said. “Many taxpayers are persuaded to apply for “rapid refund” loans with high interest rates and fees which can greatly reduce their actual benefits.”
In order to address these issues, DHS is spending $380,000 to help provide this service free of charge to families with incomes under $33,000 and to individuals with incomes under $15,000. For the upcoming tax season, services will be available from January 26 through April 15 at twenty locations in Chicago, and in Aurora, Champaign, Decatur, East St. Louis, Elgin, Granite City, Harvey, Joliet, Marion, Peoria, Rockford, Springfield, Villa Park, and Waukegan. A complete listing of these sites and their hours of operation is attached.
The largest of these services is the Tax Counseling Project (TCP) administered by the Center for Law and Human Services. One of the largest state-wide free tax services in the nation, TCP trains volunteers to provide free tax services to families and individuals at 12 locations in Chicago and 13 other sites throughout Illinois.
DHS also funds the Tax Assistance Program (TAP) which has ten locations in Chicago and the suburbs. TAP recruits tax professionals to volunteer to assist low-income families. The DHS local office in Villa Park serves as the tax site in DuPage County.
Last year, these programs used nearly 1,500 volunteers to prepare 15,000 federal and state returns generating nearly $20 million in refunds for Illinois workers. Thirty-seven of these volunteers were employees of DHS.
Volunteers will prepare federal and state returns for the current year and, if necessary, for past tax years. Volunteers also provide counseling and advise workers regarding withholding allowances, filing status, and other tax benefits (such as the Child Credit and the Child Care Credit which have been increased for 2001) for which they may qualify. Electronic filing is available at many locations.
To receive more information about the program, contact the Center for Law and Human Services toll free at (866) 767-1907 or call the DHS Office of Communications at (217) 557-1564. For a listing of tax counseling sites in Illinois, visit the Department of Human Services website.