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Getting back your hard-earned money could be a tax return away

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Do you earn less than $37,000 a year? You might qualify for as much as $6,000 from the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)... just by filing your taxes.

There are 50 days until Tax Day. The New York City EITC Coalition, a partnership of more than 100 government, corporate, nonprofit, and community organizations led by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), encourages working families and individuals to claim the EITC. The EITC returns federal, state, and City government dollars to qualifying taxpayers through either a tax credit or cash refund. Following are eligibility criteria:

*MFJ = Married Filing Jointly

In 2004, the average combined refund for New York City filers was $2,355. And last year, approximately 800,000 New Yorkers received more than $2 billion in EITC refunds.

The fourth year of the NYC EITC Campaign formally launched on January 19. Read the press release and visit the DCA's EITC home page for more information.

Find out about Free Tax Preparation

At more than 100 Coalition sites throughout the five boroughs, trained volunteers will help determine if you are EITC-eligible and file your taxes for free. To qualify for free tax preparation, you must meet the following criteria:
° You have dependents and household income less than $40,000.
° You have no dependents and household income less than $20,000.

You can claim the EITC retroactively for up to three years. So, if you didn't file taxes or claim the EITC in 2002, 2003, or 2004, file now! If eligible, you could triple your refund.

For a list of free tax preparation sites Citywide, click here or Dial 311.

Special Discounts from H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt

Members of participating unions save $50 on tax preparation at H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt. Unions include 1199 SEIU; AFSCME DC 37; AFSCME DC 1707; Central Labor Council; Hotel-Motel Trades Council; SEIU Local 74; Teamsters Local 237; and UNITE HERE. Download the coupon for eligibility information.

Residents in qualifying zip code areas Citywide save $50 on tax preparation at H&R Block. New in the 2006 EITC Campaign, H&R Block is offering discounted tax preparation services to residents in 19 target neighborhoods, where most EITC-eligible families reside and where expensive Refund Anticipation Loan (RAL) usage is prevalent. Download the coupon for eligibility information, including qualifying zip codes.

DCA Tips about Paid Tax Preparation:

By law, you must receive a copy of the Consumer Bill of Rights Regarding Tax Preparers before any discussion about tax preparation services.

Avoid RALs, which are high-interest loans that reduce the amount of your refund.

If You Are Among the Nearly 800,000 New Yorkers Who Don't Have a Bank Account, It's Time to BANK ON NEW YORK

Bank on New York, a partnership with the New York State Banking Department and nearly 40 banks and credit unions, encourages New Yorkers to open basic, no-fee, or low-fee bank accounts so filers can get tax refunds quickly and cheaply -- and avoid RALs. For a list of participating banks and credit unions, click here.