It’s Tax Day, Did You File for EITC?

When it comes to money, most people don’t know what they don’t know. And that’s why so many low-income workers are missing out on the Earned Income Tax Credit. There may still be time to claim it.

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I should have known better. At a table full of relatives for Easter dinner, I found myself actually getting into a conversation about the economy, big bad Wall Street, the evil government, and of course, clueless journalists.

As a financial journalist, I get a front-row seat to see how frustrating the economy can be. I’ve covered and worked on big bad Wall Street for 20 years, so I’m well aware of how some bad apples give the appearance that the whole bunch is rotten, especially when the bad fruit is allowed to infect others because the government and the “system” are not giving it the “fertilizer” it deserves.

The conversation turned south, however, when I shared my observation that some of our financial problems are also of our own making. Not a popular position these days, particularly when points are being punctuated—or should I say watered down—by free-flowing Easter wine after a long Lenten fast!

Emotions were high, tempers were flaring, logic was on hiatus, but I did, at one point, say, “Look how many people don’t claim the Earned Income Tax Credit!”

Everyone paused. Then one combatant reloaded and shot out, “If the government wanted to give it to us, they would find the people who are eligible and pay them,” which re-ignited the fire.

Despite both guns blazing, I did realize we were looking, once again, at what is really at the heart of so many of our financial problems at home, with the government, Wall Street, etc.: financial illiteracy. It was clear by the comments at my family dinner that very few people understood what the EITC was and how it really works.

The government is not going to hunt you down and give you this refund, so here’s the deal.

EITC 101—What is it?

The Earned Income Tax Credit is a tax credit for low- to moderate-income individuals and families. Congress originally passed EITC legislation in 1975 to, in part, offset the burden of Social Security taxes.

How do you qualify?