The Internal Revenue Service touted Earned Income Tax Awareness Day  as a way to raise consciousness about the credit for low-income taxpayers as the economic crisis forces more Americans into lower tax brackets.

The IRS also said that many of its Taxpayer Assistance Centers will be open on some Saturdays in February to help taxpayers who are eligible for the EITC. Last year, nearly 24 million taxpayers received approximately $48 billion from the EITC. The average EITC amount was $2,000. However, about a quarter of all taxpayers who qualify don’t claim the credit.

“Many Americans experienced financial hardships last year,” IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman (pictured) said in a statement. “People may be eligible for EITC for the first time and really should check out their eligibility. This is a significant credit that can make their lives a little easier. EITC can provide a real dollars-and-cents boost when it’s needed most.”

He appeared at an event in the Bronx with Rep. José E. Serrano, D-N.Y., and the nonprofit tax preparation organization Ariva to promote EITC Awareness Day. For the 2008 tax year, the maximum amount of the EITC is $4,824 for a family with two or more children; $2,917 for a family with one child and $438 for a childless taxpayer. Generally, earned income and adjusted gross income must each be less than:

· $38,646 ($41,646 married filing jointly) with two or more qualifying children;
· $33,995 ($36,995 married filing jointly) with one qualifying child; or
· $12,880 ($15,880 married filing jointly) with no qualifying children.

People over age 65 usually are not eligible for the EITC, but if they are raising a grandchild who meets certain requirements, they may be eligible. Workers who do not have a child or who do not live with their own child may be unaware that they still are eligible for a credit. Military families also have the options of calculating combat pay or leaving it out, whichever may be more beneficial.

Separately, the IRS said that nearly 12,000 free tax preparation sites will be open nationwide this year as the agency continues to expand its partnerships with nonprofit and community organizations performing vital tax preparation services for low-income and elderly taxpayers.

In addition, Wolters Kluwer Financial Services said it is working with Operation Hope, a nonprofit organization devoted to financial literacy, to help more taxpayers qualifying for the EITC credit claim it this year. EITC services will be available at HOPE Center locations in Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Oakland, Calif.; Washington, D.C., and New York.

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