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IRS giving free help with taxes

The Internal Revenue Service and community partners have kicked off Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Awareness Day to promote a tax break that could be critical to many Alabamians this year. This tax credit, along with help sites that offer free tax return preparation and e-filing, can increase and speed up refunds and help taxpayers save needed money.

“Many more Alabamians may be eligible for EITC because of reductions in their income last year,” said IRS spokesman Dan Boone. “And by using free tax prep and e-filing, they can get those much-needed refunds in a hurry.”

To help filers, the IRS offices in Birmingham and Mobile will be open Feb. 7 and 21 from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m., in addition to normal weekday hours (8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.).

Community organizations statewide have set up hundreds of free tax help sites staffed by trained volunteers where qualifying filers can claim EITC and other tax breaks. Filers with household income below $42,000 or who file a simple return can dial the United Way help line at 2-1-1 to locate the closest free help site.

Created in 1975, the EITC is the government’s largest tax benefit program for working families and individuals. Last year about 509,000 Alabama families claimed $1.19 billion in EITC, an average of about $2,337 per family added to their tax refunds.

For a family with two or more children, the maximum credit is $4,824 as long as their 2008 earned income and adjusted gross income were less than $38,646 ($41,646 married filing jointly). Amounts differ for those who are single or have fewer or no children.

Investment income must be $2,950 or less. Children must meet certain age, relationship and residency requirements. Filers with no children must be at least 25 years old but under age 65.

EITC claimants can also use Free File through IRS.gov if they wish to prepare their own returns.