Editorial, Feb. 7, 2019

Feb 07, 2019

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.

Snopes.com, 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.

To our readers

Dear Readers,

For more than 150 years, residents of Midcoast Maine have looked to our publications for the news that was vital to them, ranging from politics and breaking spot news incidents to stories about business and portraits of everyday life.

We continue to offer these stories today, including comprehensive coverage of local government, school administration, courts and crime, the arts, local sports and obituaries. On the editorial pages we take stands on important issues while inviting members of the community to send in their letters. We also provide a community bulletin board for local organizations to announce their important coming events.

Without strong, independent journalism, a community would have no full-time, professional watchdogs to hold government officials, corporations and authorities accountable. This role is vital to the maintenance of democracy, which starts at the local level.

In addition to that, Courier Publications continues to be a major employer in the area, providing jobs to about 40 of your friends and neighbors.

Gathering, writing, printing and distributing the news comes at a cost in time, resources and money. The only way quality journalism can survive is if it is supported by members of the community.

To keep up with those costs, we find it necessary to increase our prices by about 50 cents per issue. Our newsstand price has increased to $1.75 plus tax. Ask yourself, what item that you buy from week to week has not seen a price increase in the last five or more years?

We appreciate the support you have given us over the years and look forward to continuing to serve as your community news source.

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