“Thank you so, so much. I have two kids, I’m a single mom, and I really need this money.”
As a volunteer tax preparer with Tax Haven (formerly known as StreetCred New Haven), I am helping put money back in the pockets of the families who need it most.
As a pediatrician working in New Haven, CT I witness firsthand the toxic stress created by financial strain. Poverty threatens child health. Families with limited financial means often struggle to afford basic necessities, eat nutritious food, stay physically active, and manage chronic conditions. Poverty increases the risk of developing asthma, obesity, and numerous other health conditions.
Roughly one third of New Haven’s children live in poverty. At Fair Haven Community Health Center, I provide primary care for many of New Haven’s most vulnerable children. In an effort to improve financial wellness, we have offered free tax preparation services for our families for the last three years, spearheaded jointly by Alice Rosenthal, a lawyer from the Yale Pediatric medical legal partnership, and Dr. Leslie Sude, a pediatrician who works at the health center.
Tax Haven, provides free tax preparation services for families earning less than $66,000 a year, by partnering with an IRS-certified Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site. Tax Haven ensures that our families are receiving the maximum refund they qualify for, completely free of charge.
By completing a number of training modules and exams, I became a certified volunteer tax preparer this year. I am now well-versed in the myriad credits and rebates that many of our families qualify for. For families who are struggling financially, it’s important that pediatricians be aware of various tax credits available and know how to refer families to a VITA site for guidance.
The Child Tax Credit (CTC), for example, has expanded eligibility and an increased dollar amount available this year. For the 2021 tax year, children up through 17-years-old qualify for the credit, and it has increased to $3,000 per child, or $3,600 per child under age 6.
Gaps remain in receipt of the CTC. A national survey conducted by the Center for Law and Social Policy in October 2021, found that only 77% of respondents claimed the CTC this year. Among those who did not claim the credit, the most commonly reported reason was not realizing they were eligible.
Another important credit available to many of our families is the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which is a refundable tax credit for low- to moderate-income working individuals and couples, particularly those with children. The IRS estimates that 20% of eligible workers do not claim the EITC.
The 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit is available for eligible individuals who didn’t receive the third round of Economic Impact Payments (aka stimulus payments) or didn’t receive the full amount. For many families, that is $1400 for each adult, plus an additional $1400 for each qualifying dependent. On a recent phone call with a tax client, a single mom of one child, we walked through the steps to determine if she had received the third stimulus payment.
She shared, “Believe me, I would notice if $2,800 appeared in my bank account.”
For her, that $2,800 was a game changer.
As pediatricians, we can improve the health and well-being of our families and children by helping them build economic stability. Financial wellness is key for family wellness, and connecting families to available resources in the community is essential.
For more information about free tax assistance, email TaxHaven@gmail.com, or call (475)-355-7873.