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Brown urges Ohioans to make use of free tax services

Senator says not enough are taking advantage of Earned Income credit

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, is encouraging state residents to take advantage of the free tax preparation services offered by the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.

In a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, Brown said the service, is not only free, but has been found to be more reliable than paid services.

“We want to make sure Ohioans get as much of their hard-earned money back in their pocket as possible,” Brown said.

The VITA program was founded in 1971, as a means for low and moderate income earners to file at no cost. Certified volunteers work at tax preparation sites, starting in January, to offer assistance. Residents can find the VITA sites in their area by calling 1-800-906-9887 for more information.

Brown pointed out that additional funding had been secured by Congress for the VITA service, making it easier for Ohioans to file.

“Wall Street billionaires have armies of accountants,” he said, citing the need to help poor and middle class families with filing.

He said that many are not taking advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit, a benefit for working people with low to moderate income, which has recently been expanded by Congress.

“Too many families don’t realize that they’re eligible,” Brown said, adding that residents can also take advantage of the Free File option on the Internal Revenue Service’s website.

Brown was joined on the conference call by Amy Hanuer, the founding executive director of Policy Matters Ohio, a non-profit policy research institute focusing on anti-poverty initiatives.

Hanuer said Brown was being “too modest” about his role in increasing the EITC, which she said it is important for people to make use of.

“It gives more money to low income working families with children,” she said. “This is money that our families need, and this is money that our communities need.”

Brown said the EITC, which has been expanded and made permanent, is “the most important anti-poverty legislation of the past 20 years, other than the Affordable Care Act.”

He also cautioned Ohioans about scams in which taxpayers receive a phone call or email, supposedly from the IRS. The phone call tells the taxpayer that they have to pay an amount by phone or risk jail time.

Brown said that these calls and emails are not legitimate, and pointed out that the IRS never initiates contact by email and doesn’t demand payment by phone.

He said anyone who is unsure or wants to report a possible scam should call 1-800-366-4484.