Don't delay

While the deadline to file is still months away, people are being encouraged to file their income tax returns as early as possible in light of another possible government shutdown, which could delay refunds., a fact-checking website, reported in January that “the IRS’ contingency plan for ‘lapsed appropriations’ (i.e., a government shutdown) classifies ‘issuing refunds’ as a ‘non-excepted activity’" — meaning that processing refund payments is not deemed essential and therefore may not be attended to while the shutdown remains in effect.

“As of January 7, officials with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) were maintaining that refunds would indeed by paid during the shutdown: ‘Tax refunds will go out,’ acting director of the Office of Management and Budget Russell Vought told reporters.”

Snopes reported that a senior administration official said that OMB is relying on a 2011 IRS memo that argued tax refunds can be paid out during a shutdown.

The government has reopened in the time since that report, but national news outlets are cautioning there could be a new shutdown as early as Feb. 15.

But, before you get started, Maine Center for Economic Policy offers another tax tip for low-income filers: You could get a larger refund if you take advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit when you file. In 2018, 25 million workers received more than $63 billion in EITC refunds, according to the IRS. Roughly 95,000 Mainers received nearly $200 million in EITC refunds last year.

Some with lower incomes choose not to file because they don’t owe the federal or state government any taxes — but the credit is available only to those who file. The Internal Revenue Service estimates that one-fifth of eligible Americans don’t receive the EITC they earned by working. That leaves on the table billions of dollars that could help low-income Americans make ends meet.

According to Maine Center for Economic Policy, Mainers who worked last year and had income of less than $54,884 may be eligible for the federal EITC. Eligibility can mean up to a $6,431 refund for some filers. On average, federal EITC adds $2,106 to Maine refunds.

Tax filers in Maine also are eligible for a state-level EITC, in addition to the federal credit.

Not sure you want to tackle filing on your own? Those who earned less than $55,000 in 2018 can get free tax filing assistance by IRS-trained and certified volunteers at one of CA$H Maine's 35 tax sites, including several in Waldo County.

It's best to call ahead for an appointment: Waldo County YMCA, 157 Lincolnville Ave., Belfast, 338-4598; Carver Memorial Library, 12 Union St., Searsport, 548-2303; and Stockton Springs Community Library, 6 Station St., 505-0778.

In addition, AARP offers tax preparation assistance. AARP locations closest to Waldo County residents include the CA$H Maine sites listed above, plus Camden Public Library, 55 Main St., 236-3440, and Fairfield Community Center, 61 Water St., 453-7911.

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