BOSTON—For many Americans, tax season means sorting through reams of paperwork and receipts, only to find out you owe money to Uncle Sam.
But for the dozens of people crowded into chairs lining the hallway of this tax-preparation office, tax season means something else entirely: a rare time when they may have a few extra thousand dollars in their pocket, alongside the emotional lift that can accompany a financial windfall.
The people waiting here at the Roxbury Center for Financial Empowerment will find out, with the help of a cast of volunteer tax preparers, whether they qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, a program that makes available $55 billion annually to the working poor.
“I’m going to save it. I want to take a trip, sooner or later, down to see my family in the South,” Dorothy O’Neill, a 47-year-old woman who works for an industrial-cleaning company in Boston, told me outside the tax-prep office. She hadn’t gotten the tax credit before, but she’d been working for more than a year, and after a friend told her about the tax credit, she’d headed down to the office to check it out. She was waiting to find out how much she'd receive.
The Earned Income Tax Credit began in 1975 and was expanded dramatically in 1993 as part of President Clinton’s anti-poverty policy. Put simply, the credit is a subsidy the federal government provides to those who work but earn very little. Single workers with one child can earn up to $38,511 and still be eligible; those who have three or more children and are married can make up to $52,427 and still be eligible. Some workers can receive as much as $6,143 in a single check.