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Claiming tax credit is a step to prosperity

A Times Editorial
Published February 6, 2007


Pasco's United Way, senior advocates and the federal government are trying to bring a little prosperity to some county residents.

The prosperity campaign, a partnership of the United Way, the AARP and the Internal Revenue Service, is intended to help low and moderate income wage earners retain a larger share of their income tax obligation.

The target audience is a working- class population that struggles to make ends meet and doesn't have discretionary cash available to hire a tax professional.

The goal is to help eligible families claim the earned income tax credit on their annual tax returns and use the refund to boost individuals' resources by directing them to low-cost banking services, credit counseling, matching grants and zero-interest loans for home buying through Pasco County's Community Development Division.

The IRS estimates more than 6,000 Pasco families do not claim the credit each year, leaving $3-million or more unclaimed.

More than half of Pasco's households are considered low to moderate income. The tax credit applies to households with a qualified child in which someone worked and earned less than $35,263. The income eligibility limits change depending on the number of children and whether someone is filing individually or with a spouse. Call the United Way's 211 help line to make an appointment for free tax assistance.

As Times staff writer Camille C. Spencer reported, this is the third year of the prosperity campaign in Pasco, and participation jumped from 320 people claiming $278,160 worth of refunds in 2005 to 427 people getting $452,000 last year. Likewise, the number of AARP and IRS volunteers who helped with tax preparations doubled from 75 to 150.

Here's another way of looking at it: The earned income tax credit turns a $10 per hour salary into $11.47 by boosting the annual income of a wage earner with two children by more than $3,000.

It's a worthwhile effort that goes beyond altruism for a vulnerable population. The better an individual's financial standing, the better the chance he or she won't need help from the social service agencies that comprise the United Way. Accomplishing that objective means more resources available for others less fortunate.

We concur with the philosophy delineated by the United Way: The prosperity campaign is beneficial to Pasco and can be an integral component to solving all types of community problems.

Eligible taxpayers shouldn't be shy about embracing it.