In 2013, workers not raising children who are eligible for the EIC had average annual earnings of about $7,656. About half of them work in service industries. About 19 percent work full-time, year-round. About 44 percent are single men and 37 percent are single women. About 20 percent are married.
Tax credits can represent a useful income boost for lower-wage workers who do not have children living with them — including non-custodial parents and childless workers. Workers not living with children who earn less than$14,590 (or $20,020 if married) receive only a small EIC (averaging about $270), but non-custodial parents may be able to claim a substantial CTC if they are permitted by a divorce or separation agreement to claim a child as a dependent. The CTC can be worth up to $1,000 per dependent child under age 17 for workers who earned more than $3,000 in 2014. It is important to bring this news to workers who may know they do not qualify for the EIC, but who may not understand that they could qualify for the CTC.
Many of the places that are natural gathering points for families with children — such as schools and child care programs — may not be fruitful outreach settings for this group of workers. Special strategies are needed:
- Target workers who are likely to have been employed on and off during the year. Distribute materials at: pick-up and drop-off spots for day labor; hotel, motel and other service worksites that may hire seasonal employees; General Assistance, SNAP (food stamp) or unemployment offices; and programs serving migrant workers.
- Identify individuals whose circumstances have impeded their efforts to work. Try reaching them through: Veterans Administration hospitals or service centers; transitional housing programs; homeless shelters, food banks and soup kitchens; probation offices; half-way houses or mental health or substance abuse service centers; and literacy or GED programs.
- Reach out to workers in school or training programs. Distribute materials at: universities with non-traditional students; community colleges;
- English as a Second Language or literacy programs; vocational rehabilitation centers; and job training programs.
- Alert the state or county Child Support Enforcement agency (also referred to as the IV-D agency), which establishes child support orders typically requiring non-custodial parents to pay a set amount of child support each month — and provides services to enforce these orders. As part of its work, the IV-D agency may have contact with non-custodial parents and can use such opportunities to provide information about how they may qualify for the tax credits.
- Provide tax credit information when child support obligations are being established either through a court or an administrative process. Decisions about which parent claims the child as a dependent for tax purposes are often made at this time. Information about the CTC can be provided to both parents at the same time they are notified about the process for establishing child support.
- Ask employers to help inform workers about the tax credits. A special note about the availability of the CTC may be of particular interest to non-custodial parents whose child support payments are being deducted from their paycheck.
- Reach out to Fatherhood Programs. This broad range of community-based human service initiatives are aimed at nurturing men in their roles as fathers and caregivers to children. Some groups are geared toward assisting fathers in particular circumstances or life stages, such as teen fatherhood programs; others focus on helping young men develop employment and life skills, as well as parenting skills.
Tax Credit Outreach IN ACTION
The Cuyahoga EITC Coalition in Ohio has provided free tax preparation services to the Cleveland area since 2006. The Coalition recently partnered with the United Ways of Lorain and Lucas counties to coordinate tax credit outreach efforts by sharing resources and strategies. The Coalition oversees 40 VITA sites throughout Cuyahoga, Lucas, and Lorain County, and engages more than 400 volunteers.
To reach workers without children in 2014, the Coalition collaborated with local non-family homeless shelters, rehab centers, libraries, housing assistance centers, and workforce development groups. The Coalition promoted its VITA sites to these locations through flyers and word of mouth. The Coalition trained volunteers on the importance of the EIC, CTC, ACA, federal financial student aid, and about Ohio-specific issues such as the new state level EIC.
In addition to free tax filing assistance, all VITA sites offered public benefits pre-screening for SNAP, TANF, and Medicaid. To participate in the pre-screening, clients completed a paper application. Partner staff at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank reviewed applications using Ohio Benefit Bank Software and called clients within two days to let them know if they were eligible to receive public assistance.
The Coalition offered weekly asset-building classes during and after tax season to all VITA clients as well. At the VITA sites, the Coalition held classes teaching budgeting, foreclosure prevention, and general financial education.
In 2014, the Cuyahoga EITC Coalition filed 12,082 tax returns in Cuyahoga County alone, providing more than $15 million in federal refunds.
Contact: Keely Andrews, Cuyahoga EITC Coalition, (216)631-0280, email@example.com
Glad You Asked That!
Q: What special forms must non-custodial parents complete in order to claim the CTC?
A: Non-custodial parents eligible to claim the CTC must use the 1040 or 1040A and attach Form 8332, “Release/Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent,” which requires the custodial parent’s signature, and Form 8812 to claim the CTC. (They may not use the 1040 EZ.)