Tax credit could benefit thousands of Colorado families

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DENVER -- This tax season, thousands of Colorado families could be eligible for more than $70 million in refunds. The financial boost is the result of the return of the Colorado Earned Income Tax Credit.

The Colorado EITC was last available in 1999. It's making a comeback after lawmakers voted to bring it back. According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, an estimated 380,000 families qualify for the tax credit.

The credit is aimed at helping low-income families. Shannon Cassiola Gonzales of Thornton is a single mother of five and she admits she doesn’t know if she could make ends meet without her yearly tax refund.

“This is how I support my family at the end of the year. This is how I get through it,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales took her W-2 to volunteers with the Piton Foundation. She went to Thornton High School, one of the group’s 26 sites statewide, for free tax help. Gonzales was surprised to learn her refund will be hundreds more than she expected.

“I had no idea,” she said.

It turns out, the tax preparer found Gonzales qualified for the federal EITC and that meant she also qualified for Colorado’s version.

“When she told me I was really excited,” Gonzales said.

Courtney Sabine with the Piton Foundation said since the Colorado EITC hasn’t been available in more than 15 years, there’s a good chance many who qualify won’t know it.

“Unfortunately, a lot of software out there isn’t going to automatically direct that to the state return. So it takes people to ask, ‘Did I get the state EITC?’ Because if they got the federal they should automatically receive the state,” Sabine said.

According to CDOR, the Colorado EITC is 10 percent of the federal tax credit. For Gonzales, it meant she would eventually be receiving an extra $400 into her bank account.

“It brings you peace at the end of the day that you’re going to have a little extra money for your family. There’s nothing more important than that,” Gonzales said.

Fortunately for families in similar situations, there are organizations like the Piton Foundation that help taxpayers find the credits they’re eligible for and help file their returns.

“Individuals and families making under $53,000 a year can come to get served by IRS certified students and volunteers to get their taxes done for free,” Sabine said.

Experts will be taking calls during a three-hour phone bank on Wednesday morning. Representatives with the Piton Foundation will be on hand from 6-9 a.m.