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Free tax filing help available for Californians

February 2, 2011 |  5:00 pm

Working families that made less than $49,000 last year can get free help preparing their income tax returns and qualifying for up to $12,000 in federal tax credits, said Jerome Horton, chairman of the California Board of Equalization.

The total credit includes up to a $5,600 Earned Income Tax Credit, which Horton called "the federal government's most effective antipoverty program."

The Earned Income Tax Credit is a refundable tax credit, meaning that filers can receive a refund even if they owe no taxes.

The credit was approved by Congress in 1975 to offset the burden of Social Security and other payroll taxes on the working poor. It also provides those workers with an incentive to get a job, said Horton, who represents more than 8.5 million residents in Los Angeles.

To provide the free tax preparation, Horton and the Board of Equalization have joined with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, California Franchise Tax Board, United Way, Legal Aid Society of Orange County and other nonprofit organizations.

Information on the program is available at the Board of Equalization's website.

-- Marc Lifsher