Saturday, Feb. 7


Illinois has the largest free statewide tax preparation program in the nation

Department of Human Services provides funding for tax help and has an aggressive outreach campaign to connect low-income working families
to important benefits        
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[FEB. 7, 2004]  SPRINGFIELD -- Illinois Department of Human Services Secretary Carol L. Adams, Ph.D., on Feb. 3 affirmed her department's ongoing commitment to fund tax counseling and preparation services for low-income working families.

The department invested $400,000 on this program for tax year 2003. "Last year, the tax counseling program helped 26,000 families across the state and, through the earned income tax credit, returned over $34 million to the pockets of Illinois' working families," Adams said.

"We consider that a good return on our investment," Adams continued, "but this year we've stepped up our outreach efforts. There are still thousands of working families in Illinois who qualify for this refund but did not apply last year. We want every family in the state that qualifies for this tax credit to know about this program and get the refund that's owed to them."

Information was mailed to more than 1 million households served by the Department of Human Services. The department also sent information to all its offices, contractors and providers and posted notices on its website and toll-free phone lines.

The earned income tax credit is a special program to provide tax refunds to working families making less than $35,000. Qualified workers who are raising more than one child could receive as much as a $4,204 federal refund and another $210 from the state tax credit.

Illinois is the only state in the nation in which the state human services agency provides funding for free tax preparation so that low-income taxpayers can avoid high preparation fees and claim the credit. The Department of Human Services began funding this program in 1997; since then, nearly 200,000 families in the Illinois Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program have left welfare for work.

The tax credit is considered the largest and most successful antipoverty program in history, according to the National Tax Assistance for Working Families Campaign.

In fiscal 2004, Department of Human Services funding will go to two partner organizations, the Tax Counseling Project and the Tax Assistance Program, that provide free tax preparation and tax counseling to families with incomes under $35,000 and individuals with incomes under $15,000.

The funding provides for 28 sites in the Chicago area, but most importantly it also provides the majority of the funding for 19 other sites around Illinois, including a new program in Moline. As a result, Illinois has the largest statewide program in the nation.


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This year there is an even greater opportunity because Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed legislation last summer making the state Earned Income Tax Credit permanent and refundable. The new benefit could be worth as much as $70 million to working families if everyone who is eligible takes advantage of the program.

For the 2004 tax season, services will be available at 28 locations in Chicago and in Alton, Aurora, Bloomington, Champaign, Cicero, Decatur, East St. Louis, Elgin, Harvey, Joliet, Marion, Moline, Normal, North Chicago, Peoria, Rockford, Springfield, Villa Park and Waukegan.

Last year, more than 1,700 trained volunteers prepared 26,100 returns, generating $34 million in state and federal refunds and saving families over $5 million in fees and charges. These results represent a 33 percent increase over the 2001 tax year.

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 about withholding allowances, filing status and other tax benefits, such as the child credit and child care credit, for which they may qualify.

The department also coordinates on outreach with other state agencies and other organizations to provide help for their constituencies. These efforts include the Illinois Department of Revenue; Illinois comptroller, for state employees; Department Public Aid, for KidCare and child support clients; Department of Employment Security, for Illinois Employment and Training Centers and local work force boards; State Board of Education, for families receiving school lunches; Illinois Community College Board, for financial aid students; Illinois Chamber of Commerce, for employers; Illinois AFL-CIO, for union members; Illinois Housing Authority, for public housing residents; Community Action Association, for low-income families statewide; and Rural Partners, for low-income families in rural areas.

[Illinois Department of Human Services news release]

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