M. Terry / SFVS

San Fernando residents Hipolito Rubio and Marivel Peralta receive advice from tax preparer Lizabeth Mondragon on how to apply for and Earned Income Tax Credit.

There could be an unexpected tax refund windfall this year for San Fernando residents and others.

Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-San Fernando Valley) and state Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) were stumping hard in San Fernando on Tuesday, Feb. 21, saying how low- and moderate-income individuals and families could qualify for an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which could provide recipients thousands of dollars in addition to any other refund they were already scheduled to receive.

The EITC began as a federal program created for low- to moderate-income working individuals and couples, particularly those with children. The current benefit amount of EITC is determined by a qualifier’s income (no more than $53,000) and the number of children. A state EITC program was developed last year.

There are requirements that must be met. But individuals and families here seeking those refunds can have their taxes done for free by CSUN accounting students as part of their Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) clinic.

There is a specific push to increase the number of San Fernando residents who qualify for EITC. Citibank has provided a $40,000 grant to help underwrite the expenses, and there are three different locations people can go to have their taxes prepared. 

“We’ve been working together with Congressman Cardenas and Assemblymember Raul Bocanegra…for months now, going around the community, knocking on doors, calling people,” said Hertzberg, during a press conference at Morningside Elementary School in San Fernando.

“One of the challenges has been getting people to believe they can actually get a check. They think it’s a scam. So it’s taken a long time to do this.”

Last year the VITA clinics helped  200 families receive a credit, with an average refund of $2,000. This year the federal refund could reach $6,269; the state return would be less.

Refunds can go back as far as two years, meaning the total return could be as much as $13,000, both Cardenas and Hertzberg said.

Cardenas warned that there were no guarantees how long the federal EITC program would remain.

“Right now, people are getting really scared of what’s coming out of Washington,” Cardenas said. “I understand how people feel. But understand this: today, the laws are still in place. Today, this president (Trump) and the Republican-controlled congress have not rolled back the income tax credit. If you didn’t take advantage of it last year, you still can.

“It’s like winning a lottery. But it’s not the lottery; it’s something you have earned. And you have the right to take advantage of it. Right now people are really nervous because the Republicans just turned out a 35-page memo about what they want to do about hard-working people’s taxes. And I can tell you this: in a nutshell, they want to take benefits like this away from working families, and they want to shift it over to the biggest corporations in the world.”

James Alva, the Southern California market manager for community development at Citibank said, “We made a donation of $40,000 to specifically focus on San Fernando. All the funds will be directed here. The California EITC program began last year. This is an opportunity for us to do a deeper dive in San Fernando. This year we want to see how things go and then we can always revisit.”

The three preparation sites are the San Fernando Library, at 217 N. Maclay Avenue, will have tax preparers on Mondays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Morningside Elementary School, at 576 Maclay Avenue, will have tax preparers on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. And Las Palmas Park, at 505 S. Huntington Street, on Saturdays from 10 a.m. from 2 p.m.

All preparation sites accept walk-ins, but you are encouraged to make an appointment through the VITA website, http://www.csun.edu.bookstein-institute/csun-vita-clinic, or by calling (818) 677-3600.