California Educator

December 2015

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Jerome Horton Chairman Horton was appointed to the Board of Equalization in 2009. He is the first African American to serve on the board and the third African American California constitutional officer. Previously, he served on the Inglewood City Council, in the state Assembly, and on the Cali- fornia Medical Assistance Commission. He earned his bachelor of science degree in accounting and finance from CSU Dominguez Hills. He and his wife, Yvonne, have two chil- dren and one granddaughter. O ver $2.3 billion in federal refundable credits and more than $180 million in tax refunds go unclaimed by California fami- lies annually, including parents and guardians of low-income public school students. State Board of Equalization (BOE) Chairman Jerome Horton wants to see that changed. "It's your money," he says. "Claim it." Horton is a champion of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, provided by the BOE and the Franchise Tax Board, because it helps low-income Californians get the tax refunds they're owed and use the money for basic needs. "e tax refunds and Earned Income Tax Credits help families pay for housing, food, clothing, transportation, and other vital needs that help to ensure their students' success in school," Horton says. "ese credits lifted the incomes of almost 5.7 million people above the pov- erty line, including 3.1 million children." VITA can help qualified families with income from wages and other payments from a job receive up to $6,242 in federal Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) and $2,653 in state EITC. Offered at multiple sites around the state, VITA provides basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to people who gen- erally earn less than $53,267, persons with disabilities, the elderly, and limited-English-speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their returns. is year the state will also offer a state EITC for families earning less than $13,870. e free service saves individual taxpayers on average $150, includ- ing the cost of tax preparation and filing fee that private agencies charge for capturing the EITC. Families also gain access to valuable resources such as financial literacy training, low-cost transportation, insurance and more. e BOE and the Franchise Tax Board work with a wide range of partner organizations to present VITA events. For example, 16 events are scheduled in Horton's District 3, and six events in District 4, for a total of 22 days in 2016. Sites include several California State Uni- versity campuses, UCLA, Rio Hondo College, Oxnard College, Santa Monica College, and California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. VITA events are also held at community centers, libraries, schools and shopping malls. "In addition to our tax-preparation services and access to valuable resources, I hope that families will take advantage of the job prepa- ration assistance, food and nutrition services, low-cost and free medical services, and health screenings offered at VITA events," Horton says. Find a VITA site near you at 800-906-9887 or online at "To ensure maximum participation, language assistance is available in English, Spanish and Mandarin." Horton notes a number of reasons why taxpayers don't file for the refunds. Some are members of busy working families, while many are elderly, have disabil- ities, or don't speak English. He also cites members of the military, who are focused on defending the nation. In 2014 VITA helped over 6,700 Californians secure more than $8.3 million in refunds, including $3.8 million in federal EITC reimbursement. For the 2016 tax filing season, the BOE has recruited more than 340 volunteers from the BOE, the IRS, the Franchise Tax Board, universities, law schools and non- profit agencies who will earn certification and pass a rigorous Standards of Conduct examination. VITA volunteers also help participants file returns in accordance with provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act, which aims to ensure that all Americans have access to health care. CTA supports VITA because of its direct impact on students and because of the union's commitment to social and economic justice. By LEN FELDMAN Free program helps low-income families, others access billions in tax refunds CLAIM YOUR MONEY 42

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