Tax Filing for Low Income Taxpayers

Posted by on December 10, 2016
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VITA is only one of the many free options available to low-income taxpayers

Need a hand preparing your tax return this year?

There’s a good chance that if you are one of many low income taxpayers, you will file a tax return this year. Preparing that return doesn’t have to cost you most of that refund you’ve been looking forward to.

There are credits specifically targeted toward taxpayers earning less than $50,000 per year. Let’s take a look at four credits that should be on your radar this year.

Earned Income Tax Credit

This credit was originally created as an incentive for people to work. Eligibility and the amount you receive from this credit are determined by filing status and income; specifically your adjusted gross income. To qualify for the credit, you must be between 25 and 65 years old. You also must be either single or married filing a joint tax return. If you qualify, you can earn up to $6,242! A few things to keep in mind before blindly claiming this credit are:

  • If you qualified last year, you are not guaranteed to qualify this year (and vice versa).
  • If you are being claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return, you do NOT qualify.
  • If you are married but filing separate tax returns, you do NOT qualify.
  • If you are self-employed, you could still qualify.
  • If you earn income greater than $3,350 per year from investments (ie: inheritance, stock dividends, rental property), you do NOT qualify.

When preparing your tax return with RapidTax, we won’t leave you guessing. We automatically incorporate the Earned Income Tax Credit on your account if you qualify based on the information you entered.

Lifetime Learning Credit or American Opportunity Credit

The Lifetime Learning Credit is ideal for those of us who are enrolled in post-secondary education. To qualify for this credit, you must have made tuition/fee payments to the school during the year. Eligibility is also based on income and filing status. Although the maximum amount claimable is 20% of up to $10,000 or $2,000, this credit is not limited to taxpayers in their first four years of school. Not to mention, you do not need to be working toward a degree to claim it.

The American Opportunity Credit is geared more toward those enrolled in their first four years of secondary education who are focusing on . To qualify for this credit, you must have made tuition/fee payments to the school during the year and be enrolled in at least one academic semester per year claiming the credit. It is also available to people earning an even higher adjusted gross income, setting the max at $80,000. The credit will get you 100% of the first $2,000 of qualified expenses plus 25% the expenses after that. The maximum annual credit is $2,500 per student which makes this credit  more beneficial than the Lifetime Learning Credit.

Since claiming both credits is not an option, it is in your best interest to go for the American Opportunity Credit. If you are not eligible, then claiming the Lifetime Learning Credit will most definitely still be useful.

Child and Dependent Care Credit

Are you procrastinating going back to work because you’re dreading paying high childcare fees, you may find the Child and Dependent Care Credit to be a lifesaver. To qualify for this credit, you must abide by the following:

  • You must have paid for care in order to work or look for work. School does not count as ‘work’. (See above for student tax credits!)
  • You (and your spouse if married) must have “earned income” from a job.
  • You must have a filing status of either single, head of household, qualifying widower, or married filing jointly.
  • You must be able to provide information about the caretaker hired, including name, address and SSN.

This credit will give you up to 35% of qualifying expenses, depending on your adjusted gross income.

Low income or not, don’t spend all of your refund money on filing a tax return!

As long as your income falls above the income threshold for your filing status, you have to file. For most single people this threshold will be $11,850 and for married couples $20,600. If you are blind, elderly, or filing with a different status, you will have a slightly different threshold. Also, be aware that if you are unemployed, you may still have to file taxes. Unemployment benefits do count as taxable income. You should receive a 1099-G [Certain Government Payments] showing you how much you received and you will have to enter this number on your tax return.

These credits are designed to help you save your hard-earned income. So why spend a fortune on filing the actual tax return? Save your money and file today with RapidTax.

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Updated for 2016 tax year.

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This entry was posted on at 3:47 pm and is filed under Tax and Life Changes | Blog.

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