EL CENTRO — The nonprofit Dreams for Change has opened its first free tax preparation site at the Imperial Valley Mall. The program will help qualified individuals and families receive free tax preparation to help connect them to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC), and Young Child Tax Credit (YCTC), and put their money back into their pockets and community, according to a press release.

CalEITC is a supplemental boost to the federal Earned Income Tax Credit. Research suggests the credit leads to long-term positive outcomes in health, financial stability, and education for working families.

This year for the first time, those filing with Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) are eligible to receive the credit.

Since the credit was created in 2015, CalEITC (and the Young Child Tax Credit created in 2019) has returned over $2.1 billion to low-income Californians. This upcoming year alone, California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) anticipates $1.2 billion in claims between CalEITC and the new Young Child Tax Credit.

According to the release, in a 2016 statewide survey conducted by the California Budget Policy Center, very few people who were likely eligible for the CalEITC, had heard about it — only 17 percent.

The average cost for a paid tax preparer is nearly $300 and going to a free tax preparation site can ensure that individuals get all their money back. This really makes a difference for the local low-income community who earns less than $57,000 a year.

Dreams for Change was founded in 2009. The nonprofit has been providing free tax assistance in San Diego County since 2011 and last year prepared over 8,400 returns and brought $16 million in refunds back into the community. Dreams for Change has been working in partnership with United Way and heading the San Diego County Tax Coalition to help working families receive refunds and access their Earned Income Tax Credit and the Young Child Tax Credit.

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