Opinion Extra

Op-ed: SC working poor should take advantage of Earned Income Tax Credit

For many, Tax Day is not a day to look forward to. But for us it is — and that’s why we have joined forces. We know that April 15 is a day when millions of hard-working Americans will claim the Earned Income Tax Credit. The EITC is a cash back tax credit that puts money directly back into the pockets of working families who need it most. The EITC is considered one of the most effective anti-poverty programs in America — but it’s not a handout. It’s a program that encourages and rewards work by supplementing the earnings of low-wage workers who are working hard, but still struggling to get by.

The way the Earned Income Tax Credit works is simple. If you’re working for a low wage, at the end of the year you get money back based on how much you earned and how many children you have. You can get money back even if you didn’t have to pay any income tax. The EITC makes hard work pay better, at a time when hard work alone is no guarantee you’ll be able to provide for your family.

Recently we gathered leaders including Congressman Jim Clyburn and state legislators on the steps of the capitol with a loud and clear message: too many South Carolinians are leaving federal dollars on the table by failing to claim the EITC. In South Carolina, the average cash refund an eligible household receives from the federal EITC is $2,602. For families that are struggling, that’s a life-changing amount of money. $2,602 can make all the difference between getting ahead and falling behind, between being able to pay for basic necessities, and having to go without.

Yet every year, an estimated 119,000 South Carolinians who are eligible for the EITC never see a dime from it, because they don’t claim it on their tax return. All told, South Carolinians are leaving an estimated $309 million on the table each year. Why are so many missing out? Because in order to receive that money, you have to file your taxes — and workers on the lowest end of the pay scale are not required to file their taxes. That’s why outreach and education is so important.

The EITC provides a safety net for struggling working families, helping them cover basic necessities like food, clothing, housing, transportation and health care. Moreover, they spend that money right in their own communities, helping to support local businesses and create jobs in the communities that need them most.

Don’t let tax day, April 15, pass by without claiming the tax credits you’ve earned. Go to WorkingHeroSC.org to find out if you might be eligible for a tax refund through the EITC.

Rania Jamison is the Director of Working Hero South Carolina and Joe Sanberg is the Founder of Working Hero Action.