Working poor get help filing for big tax refunds

Poor families could get thousands in refunds -- but only if they file their taxes.
Poor families could get thousands in refunds -- but only if they file their taxes.
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Working people who don't earn enough to owe income tax may be missing out on thousands of dollars in potential refunds if they don't file tax returns.

California's top tax collector, Jerome Horton, chair of the state Board of Equalization, is trying to do something about that. Horton is hosting free workshops at his offices and local college campuses to help working families file their taxes properly -- and possibly pick up substantial refunds.

The earned income tax credit goes to families who make less than $51,000.  If you worked last year, you earned it --but  you have to ask for it by filing a return, Horton said.

"The federal government has provided a credit up to $5,169 back on your tax return, to increase your refund or reduce your liability, depending on where you are," he said.

In addition to free tax help, the workshops help qualifying families connect with health and nutrition benefits, discounted phone service and low-cost auto insurance.

This weekend the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance project was at Cal Poly Pomona. The next one is Friday at Rio Hondo College.

Other organizations also offer free tax preparation and help claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit.

The credit was created by the federal government as a way to reward low and moderate income people for working, and to offset federal and state taxes.