News Release > Rising Poverty Stats Bring Increased Urgency for Tax Credit Program and Free Tax Help
Rising Poverty Stats Bring Increased Urgency for Tax Credit Program and Free Tax Help
Entergy, IRS work together to fight poverty and bring $4 billion to the mid South region through awareness of VITA centers, EITC
NEW ORLEANS – As we begin the new year, record numbers of American families are struggling with poverty, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics which show some 46.2 million Americans are living below the poverty line. For these individuals and families Earned Income Tax Credits can be a lifesaver. However, many who qualify for the program are not aware of its existence. In the mid South region of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and southeast Texas more than $4 billion goes unclaimed every year.
Entergy Corporation has worked with the IRS to help put money back in its customers' pockets for more than a decade, but in light of increased poverty statistics and growing numbers of customers in need, this year the utility is redoubling its efforts.
As it has in years past, the company is sponsoring Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites throughout its service area to provide free tax preparation help to those who qualify and to promote the Earned Income Tax Credit. But in an added effort to get the word out company shareholders are funding paid advertising campaigns in many communities to help get the word out to those who may benefit from the program.
"With the recession, many of our customers who were comfortably middle class before have joined the ranks of the new poor. We are very concerned about individuals who may fall through the cracks simply due to lack of awareness and as a result might not get the refunds they deserve and so desperately need," said Patty Riddlebarger, Entergy's director of corporate social responsibility.
"From our perspective, every penny back into the pockets of our low income customers benefits the customer, the community and ultimately the company as well, because we can only be as successful as the communities we serve." Last year more than $12.9 million in refunds were processed at Entergy-sponsored VITA tax assistance centers.
"Studies show that the EITC is the most effective federal poverty reduction program, lifting some 6 million families each year off the poverty rolls," Riddlebarger explained. "Some families use EITC payments for significant purchases, such as a home or to pay off debts. But others use the tax credit for immediate needs such as paying for food, rent and utilities."
Entergy's efforts bolster the IRS campaign to educate taxpayers about the EITC and requirements to claim the credit. Along with sponsoring the VITA sites and paid advertising, the company is mailing bill inserts about EITC to customers who receive paper bills, placing outbound calls to select customers and including messages about the credit on paper bills and on My Account Online, Entergy's web-based bill management tool.
"Nationally, the average credit is $3,000, but working families can receive up to $5,751 if they qualify," said Riddlebarger. "That can make a huge difference in a family's life and a big impact on our region's economy."
According to the Foundation for the Mid South 2 million eligible individuals in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi lose out on $4 billion each year because they fail to file for EITC.
"We would like to help bring that money home to our customers by making sure they are aware of the program," Riddlebarger added. "This in turn would reduce demand for public service and benefit programs, and strengthen our communities."
The EITC is a federal income tax credit for low-income workers who are eligible for and claim the credit. Taxpayers who qualify for and claim the credit can reduce the amount of tax they owe, pay no tax or get a refund. The IRS estimates that nationally 79 percent of all eligible taxpayers receive the EITC—meaning approximately 21 percent do not claim the credit they deserve.
For a complete list of EITC requirements, interested applicants should review publication 596, which is available by calling the IRS at 1-800-TAX FORM (1-800-829-3676) or by visiting the IRS website at irs.gov/eitc.
Entergy Corporation is an integrated energy company engaged primarily in electric power production and retail distribution operations. Entergy owns and operates power plants with approximately 30,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity, and it is the second-largest nuclear generator in the United States. Entergy delivers electricity to 2.8 million utility customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
Entergy's online address is entergy.com.