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South Carolina Lawyers Serving the Public Good


E-File System Returns Millions to Low-Income Tax Filers

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

  • LSC
  • Source: California

More than $70 million in tax refunds and credits have been returned to low-income workers who applied for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) through a free electronic filing system developed by the Legal Aid Society of Orange County.

"We are in record territory," said Robert J. Cohen, executive director of the Orange Country program in California.

EITC refunds and credits topped the $70 million mark in late February, with several weeks to go before the April 15 deadline for filing tax returns. During last year's tax-filing season, the Legal Aid Society reported returning about $34 million in tax refunds, EITC and other credits to low-income workers in 45 states.

The low-income workers applying for the EITC are using the I-CAN! E-File system, developed through funding provided by a Technology Initiative Grant from the Legal Services Corporation.

I-CAN! E-File is available to taxpayers at and, for the first time, appears in the listing of Free File Alliance online tax preparation organizations compiled by the Internal Revenue Service on the agency's website,

I-CAN! E-File takes its name from the Interactive Community Assistance Network, a ground-breaking, self-help electronic system developed by the Orange County program to provide low-income individuals and families with access to legal forms and information. The legal aid program launched the E-File website in 2003, demonstrating how an innovative technology project can make an impact in serving low-income families.

The website permits taxpayers at a fifth-grade literacy level to log on, answer basic questions about their finances, determine if they qualify for the EITC and then file their federal tax returns online or print out their tax forms and mail them to the IRS.

In addition, I-CAN! E-File can be used to file state tax returns in the following states: California, Michigan, Montana, New York and Pennsylvania.

The EITC is a refundable federal income tax credit for low- to moderate-income working individuals and families approved by Congress in 1975 as a way to help offset the burden of Social Security taxes and to provide an incentive to work. When the EITC exceeds the amount of taxes owed, it results in a tax refund to those who claim and qualify for the credit. To qualify, taxpayers must meet certain requirements and file a tax return, even if they did not earn enough money to be obligated to file a return.


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