As you know, there are several state and federal tax credits offered to low wage earners. One specific example is the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which is a refundable federal tax credit. The EITC has become a very important tool that helps working families maintain economic stability and security.
Unfortunately, many Michigan families who qualify for the EITC and other state and federal tax credits don’t file for them. For example, in 2002 at least $400 million went unclaimed by Michigan workers. The credits can be substantial — these refunds can put as much as $4,200 in the hands of eligible households with children.
I think it’s appalling, particularly in difficult economic times, that working families have failed to file for refunds that would put literally thousands of dollars in their pockets. This is money that should be circulating in communities across the state.
OFIR and the MCUL have worked together on the Community Reinvestment Initiative (CRI) to identity ways to provide working families that qualify for tax credits with the tools that they need to file these returns. The CRI Taskforce has sponsored an initiative called
“Just file it! We’ll help!” that provides working families with free resources to complete state and federal income tax returns.
This initiative specifically provides eligible persons access to a Web based software tool that will permit them to file for both federal and state income tax credits and refunds.
When paired with EITC refunds, the state credits can as much as double a filer’s return.
For these initiatives to succeed, Michigan credit unions will need to make it a priority to identify which members qualify for but haven’t filed for the credit, and then provide them with filing assistance. This represents an opportunity to provide a high-impact member service for relatively little investment.
Those wishing to participate in these projects have a variety of options. Some credit unions may disseminate information through their Web site or statement stuffers.
Others may set up lobby stations for members to fill out and submit EITC and other forms right in the credit union.
Regardless of how your credit union participates, I hope that you will consider incorporating some sort of state and federal tax credit outreach into your future member service plans. I can think of few programs that would provide as much immediate benefit to your members.
Linda A. Watters
EDITOR'S NOTE: The preceding letter dated last November was sent by Commissioner Watters to all state chartered credit unions. For more information on the “Just File It! We’ll Help!” program, visit the MCUL Web site at www.mcul.org.
An ancient philosopher once opined that the difference between an educated person and an uneducated one is as profound as the difference between “the living and the dead.”
Hyperbole, certainly — but the man knew how to make a point. And the statement certainly rings true in the credit union movement of the 21st century, when new products, services and technologies are challenging the skills and knowledge of professionals and volunteers alike.
Education is the focus of this issue of Contact Magazine — and an education/training cover theme for the MCUL’s flagship publication was long overdue. If legislative and regulatory advocacy make up the “main pillar” of the services provided by the League to its member credit unions, education and training are an indispensable support beam.
Interestingly, despite the decline in the overall number of Michigan credit unions due to mergers and consolidations, the number of credit union professionals and volunteers participating in MCUL education and training programs has remained steady. It’s clear that the growing sophistication of credit union product and service menus, complex regulatory compliance issues and intense competition from other financial institutions have made the need for education and training greater than ever.
But in our cover story, we focus on more than need and content — delivery methods make up a big part of today’s education story. Today, thanks to advanced technology, credit union professionals and volunteers can participate in sessions through teleconferencing and the Internet, savings travel and lodging expenses that can quickly add up to thousands of dollars. Credit union people can also turn their offices or their homes into personal learning centers by participating in Internet-based self study.
Yet, as the MCUL’s 2006 schedule of education and training events clearly shows, there is still a prominent place for the traditional classroom-type setting.
Our cover story, “E-Learning: Education’s New Frontier,” begins on Page 12. On Page 6, MCUL Education and Events Vice President Ann Jones goes more in-depth on how the League is meeting credit union education and training needs. And, for a quick look at the MCUL’s planned education and training sessions throughout 2006, check out the MCUL Education Calendar on Page 8.
We at Contact Magazine want to hear from you. Letters must be postmarked no later than April 15 to be considered for publication in our next (2nd Quarter) issue. We reserve the right to edit all letters for brevity and clarity and require that all letters include a signature, address and telephone number. Names may be withheld from publication only by mutual agreement of the writer and publisher under extraordinary circumstances. All letters published solely represent the views of the authors and are not necessarily the views of Contact Magazine or the MCUL.
Send all letters to:
P.O. Box 8054
Plymouth, MI 48170-8054
Or fax to (734) 420-1540.