The Earned Income Credit
The EIC is designed to assist lower-income working people by reducing taxes paid, or giving a credit, even if no tax is owed.
To qualify for the EIC, you (or your spouse) must have a job, have wages below a certain level and file a federal tax return. If you’re not working now, but you earned income last year, you still may be able to claim the EIC on this year’s tax return. You can find specific guidelines and income thresholds on the IRS website at irs.gov (search for earned income tax credit).
Voluntary Income Tax Assistance
Tax forms can be complicated, and you may want some help completing yours. The IRS’ VITA program offers free help for low- to moderate-income taxpayers, those earning $50,000 or below.
VITA’s trained volunteers can determine whether you qualify for the EIC or other tax credits, prepare your forms, and file your tax return electronically. Most VITA sites are located in community centers, schools, shopping malls and similar locations. To find the site nearest you, call 800-906-9887.
Refund Anticipation Loans
If the IRS owes you a refund, it may be tempting to accept a “rapid refund,” or “instant refund.” Several national tax-preparation firms offer this option, which many people don’t realize is actually a high-interest loan or refund anticipation loan (RAL).
RALs are short-term cash advances through large banks secured by consumers’ expected tax refunds. The interest rates for these loans are astounding, averaging between 70% and 1,700% nationwide. They usually only speed up the refund process by a couple of weeks – then consumers’ tax refunds pay off the loans and fees. There may be additional fees that could accumulate:
- Check Fee
- Account Processing Fee
- Finance Fee
- Technology Fee
- Refund Estimate Fee
- Tax Preparation Fee
- E-file Fee
- Bank Documents Fee
- Transmission Fee
- Service Bureau Fee
If you aren’t paying close attention to charges, these fees could add up to as much as $1,000. It’s better to wait for your refund, but if you do need cash immediately, talk to a Financial Services Representative at Unison about the possibility of a short-term loan.
Copyright 2007-2013 Credit Union National Association Inc. Information subject to change without notice. For use with members of a single credit union. All other rights reserved.