Kicking off National Financial Literacy Month
Editorial by Consumer Credit Counseling Service
On Tuesday, April 5, the Niagara County Financial Literacy Coalition will celebrate National Financial Literacy Month by providing free tax preparation for individuals earning less than $54,000. To highlight its commitment to improving financial conditions for low-income Niagara County residents, special attention will be paid to ensure the earned income tax credit is received. The EITC has been recognized as a powerful tool to lift children out of poverty.
The event will be held from 3-6 p.m. at Niagara County Community College, Notar Administrative Building (Room A-172).
Consumer Credit Counseling Service launched the Niagara County Financial Literacy Coalition in 2013 to provide free opportunities for financial education and awareness. It is designed to help low-income Niagara County residents, with access to volunteer income tax assistance a central focus.
To date, the coalition has completed 233 free tax returns over the course of the past two months at two Niagara County locations: Family and Children Services Center in Niagara Falls and Christ Community Church in Lockport.
Simply put, this means more money has been pumped into the local economy. During the 2015 voluntary income tax preparation (VITA) program - the first ever held by the coalition - more than $627,000 was returned to taxpayers in Niagara County. The coalition saved taxpayers over $90,000 in filing fees.
Filing income tax returns can be a costly endeavor. Unfortunately - yet typically - the majority of low-income people use a costly, and often predatory, commercial tax preparer. The national average fee charged in 2014 returns was $273, according to a survey by the National Society of Accountants. For those individuals who earn minimum wage, that can represent nearly five days of work. This does not include the cost for the "rapid refund," which is usually about $200. Low-income filers can easily pay nearly $500.
Through the VITA free tax prep program, the coalition helps low-income Niagara County residents access the EITC, which rewards work and reduces poverty.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (2015) states, "The EITC and Child Tax Credit, which go to millions of low- and moderate-income working families each year, provide work, income, education and health benefits to its recipients and their children, a substantial body of research shows. In addition, recent groundbreaking research suggests the income from these credits leads to benefits at virtually every stage of life. For instance, research indicates that children in families receiving the credits do better in school, are likelier to attend college, and can be expected to earn more as adults."
Financial Literacy Month will be emphasized during this Tuesday's event. Every April, national financial organizations stress the importance of financial education and the serious consequences that may result from a lack of financial knowledge. During April, CCCS is maximizing the opportunity to highlight financial education to consumers by offering free workshops to individuals and businesses throughout Erie and Niagara counties.
CCCS and the coalition will also encourage each filer this Tuesday - and all filers at any time - to attend free one-on-one financial coaching sessions to help set a budget and spend their returns wisely. Ongoing financial education and counseling makes a tangible difference in many peoples' lives. Additionally, the Niagara County community is urged to participate in other services provided by the coalition, including financial literacy classes including "Dollars & Sense," "Credit Counts" and "Financial Success."
The coalition is a collaborative effort among many community partners. The following agencies participate in the NCFLC:
For more information, contact Noelle Carter at 716-771-3255 or [email protected].
CCCS is a nonprofit, full-service credit-counseling agency providing confidential financial guidance, financial education, counseling and credit repayment assistance to consumers. CCCS of Buffalo helps consumers trim expenses, develop a spending plan and repay debts. Counseling is available at its main office in West Seneca, in one of its satellite offices, by telephone and via internet. Visit www.consumercreditbuffalo.org for more information.