February 20, 2016

Hirono Promotes Newly Permanent Tax Credits For Middle Class Families

Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit Were Permanently Signed Into Law Last Year

HONOLULU – With the federal tax filing deadline set for April 18th, U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono and advocates today urged Hawaii families to utilize helpful tax credits, now that these important benefits have been made permanent by Congress. Representatives from the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS), the AARP Foundation Tax Aide program and Catholic Charities Hawaii joined Senator Hirono to promote the tax benefits and free tax services available to seniors and low-income households.

Senator Hirono and the advocates reminded Hawaii families to check their eligibility for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC), which were made permanent as part of the Senate’s FY2016 omnibus package signed into law in December.

“As Hawaii families start preparing their 2015 taxes, we want to make sure that they are taking advantage of every tax credit they’ve earned, which will reduce the amount of taxes eligible families will have to pay, or perhaps even provide a tax refund.  This extra cash will allow families to purchase more food, pay rent, or meet other basic needs,” said Senator Hirono. “For years I have supported expanding the EITC and CTC and making these tax benefits permanent. I am proud to have been an original cosponsor of legislation that made this a reality.”

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), 108,000 households in the state of Hawaii claimed an average Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) of more than $2,200 last year. However, one out of every five taxpayers who are eligible for the EITC nationwide fail to claim the credit.

“TAS applauds Senator Hirono for reaching out to the EITC community and its advocates to raise awareness of this important program, which lifts millions of U.S. taxpayers out of poverty,” said Gayvial James, Taxpayer Advocate Service.

“AARP joins Senator Hirono in encouraging Hawaii residents to take advantage of the tax credits available to them,” said AARP Hawaii State Director Barbara Kim Stanton. “Last year, AARP Foundation Tax Aide counselors helped Hawaii taxpayers realize more than $1 million in Earned Income Tax Credits and more than $500,000 in Child Tax Credits. This money made a significant difference in the lives of seniors and their families. We urge taxpayers to take advantage of the tax credits they’re entitled to when filing their returns.”

"For the 22nd year, Catholic Charities Hawaii is proud to partner with AARP in providing free tax preparation for our kupuna and low- to moderate-income individuals," said Catholic Charities Hawaii President and CEO Jerry Rauckhorst. "This invaluable program will be available at two Catholic Charities Hawaii locations on Oahu and our Kona office on the Big Island to assist those who qualify for the service make the April tax deadline."

Individuals who received an Advanced Premium Tax Credit (APTC) for their health insurance coverage in 2015 are also reminded that they must file a tax return to be eligible for the credit again next year.

Free tax preparation help is available through the IRS and AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program. Certified volunteers who provide free tax preparation and counseling for seniors and low-income families. To find Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for Elderly (TCE) sites call 1-888-227-7669 or visit https://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Free-Tax-Return-Preparation-for-You-by-Volunteers

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites where Hawaii residents can receive free help in filing their taxes can be found at https://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Free-Tax-Return-Preparation-for-You-by-Volunteers.