Activists, officials urge N.J. residents to take tax credits
Filers can still receive Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Tax Credits after Tax Day
Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex) was among several state leaders who are urging residents to file for tax credits. (Photo by Daniella Heminghaus for New Jersey Monitor)
Activists and state officials gathered virtually on Wednesday to urge New Jerseyans to take advantage of a series of tax credits that could cut thousands of dollars off their tax bills and even put money directly into their pockets.
“If residents don’t know what they’re eligible for and don’t know how they can file, many can miss the opportunity on the tax credits that they deserve,” said Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “We’re here to remind everybody that it’s not too late to claim your credit, and you ought to.”
Coughlin, along with state Treasurer Liz Muoio and representatives from New Jersey Citizen Action and United Way of Northern New Jersey, appealed to residents, particularly those with low incomes, to seek assistance through the federal Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credits at the state and federal levels.
Unlike tax deductions, which lower tax bills by exempting some income from taxation, tax credits directly reduce residents’ tax bills. If a resident receives more in refundable credits, like the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credits, than they owe in taxes, they get a refund for the difference.
The Child Tax Credit provides a $3,000 per-child credit for children 6 to 17 years old, with a $3,600 award for children under age 6. Those credits begin to phase out for joint filers with an income of $150,000 or single filers who earn $112,500.
The federal Earned Income Tax Credit awards range from $1,502 to $6,728, based on the number of dependents a filer claimed, but come with lower income limits. Joint filers with three dependents must have earned no more than $57,414 to be eligible for a 2021 credit. The income limit for single filers with no dependents is just $21,430.
The state Earned Income Tax Credit is equal to 40% of the federal award.
Advocates worried a wide swath of New Jerseyans eligible for the tax breaks were leaving them on the table. Stephanie Hoopes of United Way for Northern New Jersey said research the group conducted in February found 138,000 households eligible for the credits had not received them.
It’s unclear how those numbers have changed since February, but Hoopes noted residents could still get their credits even though the deadline to file 2021 taxes was Monday.
“Filing a tax return is required to get those payments, but you can still get them,” she said. “Even though the official Tax Day has passed, if you’re getting a refund, you can file at any time and claim all of your credits.”
Residents who already filed a return but did not take advantage of the credits can file an amended return, and low-income filers who are not required to submit a tax return must do so to take advantage of the credits.
Those who file an amended return should receive their credits within six weeks if they filed digitally or 12 weeks if they filed a paper return. New digital filers can expect their credits in as little as two weeks, and new paper filers may have to wait three weeks.
Paper return processing times may face some delays because of a staff shortage at the IRS, said Naomi Anderson, director of New Jersey Citizen Action’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance service.
Both Citizen Action and United way are providing free tax preparation services for certain filers.
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