The San Diego County Earned Income Tax Credit Coalition on Feb. 10 kicked off the 2023 tax season, hosted by United Way of San Diego County and 211 San Diego, to provide information on available tax credits and provide free tax preparation to low-to-moderate income individuals and families in the county at one of its many Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites at the Copley-Price Family YMCA.
The EITC Coalition is a body of organizations and providers dedicated to providing a clear pathway to free tax assistance for families in our community. The Coalition is anchored by a partnership among United Way of San Diego County, 211 San Diego, the IRS, and the county of San Diego.
In 2022, the Coalition helped 25,250 county households file their taxes for free, resulting in over $38 million in federal and state refunds, $9 million in federal EITC claimed, and $2.7 million saved in tax preparation fees. EITC is a refundable tax credit based on income, marital status, and number of children designed to reduce the tax burden on families.
The EITC is considered the largest and most powerful anti-poverty program in the nation, and research shows the EITC improves health and educational outcomes of its beneficiaries and their families at every stage of life.
The Earned Income Tax Credit helps low-to-moderate income individuals and families reduce the taxes they owe or increase their refund so they can put more money toward rent, school tuition, utilities, groceries, and other important expenses.
Combined with the state CalEITC and the Young Child Tax Credit, taxpayers can receive hundreds or even thousands of extra dollars back on their taxes.
In 2021 Gov. Gavin Newsom and the California State Legislature expanded the CalEITC and YCTC to all California tax filers, including undocumented Individual Taxpayer Identification Number filers who meet the other eligibility criteria.
To be eligible for Coalition assistance individual and families in San Diego County, including undocumented ITIN tax filers who earn under $60,000 may qualify for free tax filing assistance and federal tax credits, and those who earn under $30,00 may qualify for more state tax credits.
International Rescue Committee Economic Empowerment Supervisor Tania Rivera, one of more than 20 nonprofits involved in the Coalition, said together organizations can provide free tax filing services for the community.
“The community has two different options to book an appointment and also to locate a free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance site,” she said. “The first option is calling 2-1-1 and the operator will conduct an intake for the client and ask for their zip code. Based on their zip code they will locate the nearest location to the client. That way they can help them book an appointment. For example, if they live in East County, they might come to the IRC or Dreams for Change, so there are different locations based on the client.”
Rivera said a second option is visiting freetaxes.org, create an account, and the website will take you to a map to see what locations are closest to your residence.
“When it comes to a VITA site, when people are not aware of these tax credits, we have certified volunteers by the IRS and tax specialists who are able to explain to them about the different credits from the state and federal government that they may qualify for, which increases your refund amount. So, even if clients come to the site without knowing about EITC, they learn about it.”
Rivera said in addition, the IRC conducts outreach throughout the year, teaching classes, utilizing social media, publications, and videos to connect with the community to let people know what EITC is, and is able to share that information with the Coalition.
With the IRC, which provides services for immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees, Rivera said when they come to the U.S., one of the many barriers they encounter is language.
“And having to learn about the U.S. tax system and banking system works as well,” she said. “The commitment of the IRC has with this population is to be able to provide information in their first language by culturally confident staff. We are fully staffed by team members who are able to relate to the client because either they share the same journey or language.”
Dreams for Change and VITA sites throughout the county need volunteers this tax season to help people file their taxes for free. The organization can train individuals to become an IRS Certified Tax Preparer. For more information on how to get involved visit volunteer.uwsd. org.
Individuals and families can call 2-1-1 to see if they qualify for the federal EITC, the CalEITC, and the YCTC. If eligible for free tax preparation, 2-1-1’s Community Connectors can schedule an appointment. For more information about available tax credits, visit 211sandiego.org/taxes or call 2-1-1.