Lower-wage workers with disabilities and families that are raising children with disabilities face profound challenges. Finding transportation to and from the job may be costly and difficult to arrange. Out-of-pocket health care expenses may be higher than for other families. Securing child or adult day care for a family member with special needs may pose a financial burden. For these reasons, the income boost that the EIC and the CTC provide can be vital. Outreach efforts can inform families that special rules may help them qualify if they work and have a severe disability or are raising a child with a severe disability. Such efforts also can allay fears that claiming the credits will jeopardize the public benefits that people with disabilities depend on.
The 2009 IRS Benchmark Study found that 54 percent of taxpayers with disabilities earn less than $20,000. Only 36 percent of taxpayers with disabilities are aware of free tax preparation services, and just 6 percent reported using them. Many families and individuals may not know about the tax credits.
- Enlist groups that advocate for people with disabilities. The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) is a coalition of approximately 100 national disability organizations. CCD members include organizations such as Easter Seals, Family Voices, the Arc of the United States, United Cerebral Palsy, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill and others that have members throughout the country. To contact CCD members, visit www.c-c-d.org. You also may find potential partners by contacting the National Council on Independent Living. For more information, visit www.ncil.org.
- Encourage “Disability Resource Coordinators (DRCs)” and “Disability Program Navigators (DPNs)” to incorporate tax credit outreach into their routine discussions with people seeking employment. The Disability Employment Initiative (DEI) is a joint project of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration and the Office of Disability Employment Policy. DEI improves state and local level coordination among disability employment and training programs and establishes community partnerships to better serve people with disabilities. Provide DRCs, DPNs, and American Job Centers (formerly called One-Stop Career Centers) with tax credit outreach materials. For more information, visit www.dei-ideas.org or www.disability.workforce3one.org/page/tag/dei_project. To locate American Job Centers in your state, visit www.servicelocator.org/onestopcenters.asp.
- Reach out to your state’s Work Incentive Planning and Assistance (WIPA) Project. The Social Security Administration (SSA) funds community-based organizations in every state to help SSA beneficiaries with disabilities make informed choices about work. Ensure that WIPA Community Work Incentive Coordinators have the information they need to alert people to the tax credits and how to claim them. To find a WIPA Project in your area, as well as Employment Networks providing counseling and job placement and Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies, visit: www.choosework.net/resource/jsp/searchByState.jsp.
- Encourage state agencies that provide services to people with disabilities (such as agencies for vocational rehabilitation, supported employment, supported living, mental health, mental retardation or developmental disabilities) to share information about the EIC and the CTC with program participants and their families.
- Take steps to ensure that free tax assistance sites are accessible to people with disabilities. Until existing sites can be modified, a mobile tax assistance site or home visiting program may be good alternatives.
Tax Credit Outreach IN ACTION
Goodwill Industries of Hawaii coordinates VITA sites in Oahu, Kauai, Maui, and the Big Island. Of Goodwill Hawaii’s 1,400 VITA clients in 2014, 26 percent reported having a disability.
Goodwill Hawaii conducts an annual accessibility survey in June for program participants, staff, and stakeholders to identify and address obstacles that can prevent taxpayers from going to the VITA sites. Survey responses led Goodwill Hawaii to create a shuttle program to bridge the gap in limited public transportation and to rearrange its facilities so that all services are available on the ground floor. Goodwill Hawaii also partners with a sign language interpreter to serve VITA clients and recruits people with disabilities as greeters for the tax site.
Goodwill Hawaii conducts a disability awareness training for all VITA volunteers using a modified version of the National Disability Institute’s Virtual Toolkit (www.realeconomicimpact.org/Taxes-and-Tax-Preparation/Virtual-Toolkit.aspx). In addition, Goodwill Hawaii invites people with disabilities to come to the trainings to discuss the kinds of interactions they prefer.
Goodwill Hawaii also participates on the board of the Hawaii Waiver Providers Association, a statewide network of 20 to 30 service providers that work with individuals with disabilities. During quarterly board meetings, Goodwill Hawaii distributes VITA flyers for partners to disseminate to their networks. Goodwill Hawaii offers to arrange onsite one-day free tax preparation for service providers whose clients cannot travel to the Goodwill VITA sites.
In 2014, Goodwill Hawaii filed 1,184 tax returns and generated $1,972,910 in tax refunds.
Contact: Wanda Villareal, Goodwill Hawaii, (808) 836-0312, firstname.lastname@example.org
Glad You Asked That!
Q: Can a person who receives disability benefits get the EIC and the CTC?
A: To be eligible for the EIC, individuals must have earned income. Most disability-related benefits are not considered earned income, but a person who received long-term, employer-paid disability benefits and is under the minimum retirement age can qualify for the EIC, even if he or she did not work during the tax year. Such disability benefits are considered earned income. Social Security Disability Insurance, SSI and military disability pensions are not counted as earned income.
Q: Can children with disabilities be claimed for the tax credits?
A: A person of any age with total and permanent disabilities may be claimed as a “qualifying child” for the EIC. A child claimed for the CTC, including a child with disabilities, must be under age 17 at the end of the year.
The National Disability Institute’s Real Economic Impact Network operates in more than 100 cities and focuses on developing the economic advancement of people with disabilities, including connecting them to tax credits and free tax filing assistance. For more information visit: www.realeconomicimpact.org.