Last week, all 32 Florida United Ways, including the United Way of North Central Florida, converged on Tallahassee to visit our state lawmakers for our annual Capitol Days - a two-day show of collective support to express our advocacy for major issues impacting Florida communities from the panhandle to the Florida keys. Topping the Legislative Consensus Agenda this year is a request to the state to expand our agencies' capacity to provide free tax preparation and financial education programs through Volunteer Income Tax Preparation or VITA. In most American towns and cities, it is a United Way agency that is charged with providing free tax preparation.
Floridians claimed $5.2 billion in Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in 2015, though the IRS estimates more than 17 percent of eligible taxpayers do not claim the credits they have actually earned. That means more than $1.1 billion dollars in potential tax credits are being left on the table in Washington, D.C., instead of going to the families in Florida where it is needed to help stabilize families in financial duress. In our six county footprint alone, we saved people nearly half a million dollars in fees in 2015 by helping them file their taxes absolutely free! The estimated amount of unclaimed EITC in our region in 2015 was $15,952,326. The estimated amount of county sales tax revenue foregone in the region due to the unclaimed EITC totaled $121,220.
As you can see, there is a real cost to not claiming EITC, and to people becoming prey to costly tax return centers. By lobbying state lawmakers to invest $1.2 million to expand the United Way's capacity to continuing to provide free tax preparation statewide, we believe we can help working families save up to $3.7 million dollars in tax preparation fees, reduce the $1.1 billion in EITC credits being left in Washington and generate up to $1.5 million in new state sales tax revenue. Not to mention boosting local county and municipal sales tax revenue through increased economic activity (source: Washington Economics Group, 2016).
The United Way's free tax preparation is good business sense. Please help us by calling your state representative and asking them to support H.B. 2153, and help provide free taxes to your friends, neighbors and loved ones this tax season.
We fight the for the financial stability of every person in every household in every neighborhood, every day.