When Guadalupe Villegas filed her taxes recently she received a pleasant surprise: a refund of more than $6,000 thanks to the state and federal earned income tax credits.
"I got so excited, because I needed some extra help," said Villegas, a single mother of two who lives in South Los Angeles. "It was the first time I had heard about it.”
Villegas found out about the credit only because she received assistance from the Koreatown Youth and Community Center's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, which is sponsored by a Los Angeles County initiative to educate low-income residents about the tax credit.
L.A. County says nearly $600 million in federal earned income tax credits go unclaimed each year. And a lot of people are leaving the state version of the tax credit on the table as well.
California introduced a state earned income credit for the 2015 tax year; it went unclaimed by about 40 percent of eligible L.A. County filers. This year's participation is on track to be worse. According to the most recent state statistics, 5 percent fewer Californians have taken advantage of the state tax credit on their 2016 tax returns.