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How San Diego’s Needy Families Can Get A Bigger Tax Refund

This photo shows an IRS W-4 form on Feb. 1, 2018, in New York.

Credit: Associated Press

Above: This photo shows an IRS W-4 form on Feb. 1, 2018, in New York.

Low- to moderate-income working San Diegans could be eligible for hundreds to thousands of dollars in tax credits, but state and federal agencies report many families are unaware of the opportunity. Local organizations are working together this tax season with corporate support to ensure that money gets into the pockets of those who need it.

The Free Tax Prep San Diego initiative aims to raise awareness about the state and federal earned income tax credits and expand the location of free filing services. Those earning up to $22,300 may be eligible for the state tax credit, while those making just under $54,000 may qualify for the federal credit.

The effort is a collaboration that includes the San Diego Housing Commission and is funded by a $250,000 grant from Citi Community Development.

Housing Commission Board Chairman Frank Urtasun said the operation could give a boost to more than 15,000 people that the agency supports with rental assistance and affordable housing.

“It helps us to be able to help the people that we serve to get their taxes done, to be able to take advantage of these tax credits to be able to reinvest back into the local community,” Urtasun said.

A spokesman for the San Diego Housing Commission said an estimated 60,000 households in San Diego may benefit from the tax credits.

Citi Community Development has launched similar initiatives in 11 other regions, including in New York City, Los Angeles and several other locations in California. Global Director Bob Annibale said it's a way to support hard-laboring residents and therefore, the fiscal health of communities.

"Our goal is not an immediate one to us, but it is the opportunity to put more cash into the economy and into the households of working families. We think that has enough merit to warrant it," Annibale said.

UC Davis School of Law Professor Dennis Ventry, Jr. said the program's expanded free tax filing support could help save low-income families from scams. He said those who qualify for the state and federal earned income tax credit are a vulnerable group and rely on tax preparation agencies more than other taxpayers.

"They get defrauded at very high rates," said Ventry, who is also chairman of the IRS Advisory Council.

Taxpayers can check their elibility for the earned income tax credits and arrange an appointment for free tax prepartion at myfreetaxes.org.

The San Diego City-County Reinvestment Task Force, which is co-chaired by San Diego City Councilwoman Barbara Bry and County Supervisor Ron Roberts, and the San Diego Earned Income Tax Credit Coalition, led by United Way, are also part of the local initiative.

Low- to moderate-income working San Diegans could be eligible for hundreds to thousands of dollars in tax credits, but state and federal agencies report many families are unaware of the opportunity. Local organizations are working together this tax season with corporate support to ensure that money gets into the pockets of those who need it.

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