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Midtown 'wealth building' to foster love of tax returns

By JON WILSON, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 12, 2003

ST. PETERSBURG -- Working poor people or others with modest incomes may be missing out on money due them.

So says a new Midtown "wealth building task force," which starts work this week to help people get earned income credits, which could mean a few hundred or a few thousand dollars. A kickoff breakfast will be held from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at the James B. Sanderlin Center, 2335 22nd Ave. S.

The event is free and open to the public. It should interest both people who think they might be eligible for tax credits and those who would like to train others to apply for them, said Lounell Britt, Sanderlin Center director.

"A lot of folks just don't know they might be eligible," Britt said.

Trainers will provide free assistance in applying. The Sanderlin Center is one of three income tax assistance centers in St. Petersburg. The others are Florida Blood Services, 10100 Dr. M.L. King (Ninth) St. N; and the Enoch Davis Center, 1111 18th Ave. S.

Only about 22 percent of Pinellas County people eligible for earned income credits claimed them, leaving nearly $11-million in unclaimed money, Britt said.

Those who did claim the EIC received an average refund of $1,550, tax data show.

Workers who qualify for the EIC and file a federal tax return can get back some or all of the tax that was taken out of their pay during the year.

According to federal guidelines, the EIC is a special benefit to reduce the tax burden on people who earn low or moderate incomes, to supplement wages and make work more attractive than welfare.

Single or married people who worked full or part time at some point during 2002 can qualify for the EIC, depending on their income. Here are some examples:

A worker with one child in the home and a family income of less than $29,201 ($30,201 for married workers) can get an EIC of up to $2,506.

A worker with more than one child in the home and a family income of less than $33,178 ($34,178 for married workers) can get up to $4,140.

A worker between ages 25 and 64 with no children at home and with an income below $11,060 ($12,060 for married workers) can get up to $376.

Representatives from area banks, the IRS, the FDIC, the city government and county social service agencies began meeting in August to form the task force.

Financial management, including basic elements like how to handle a checking account, will be part of the training.

Part of the theory is that if residents get more money, manage it better and save it more frequently, Midtown will benefit as a neighborhood.

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