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Detroit program offers low-income tax assistance

As tax season approaches, programs to assist low-income families with tax preparation are kicking into high gear.

That includes a program run by the Michigan Association of Certified Professional Accountsin Detroit.

Stewart Sakwa is an accountant and a volunteer with the program. He says many people don’t know that they qualify for certain federal and state tax credits if their incomes are below a certain level: $35,000 a year for individuals, and $50,000 a year for families.

“We provide tax preparation for low income individuals, to get them some tax credits and refunds they may not get otherwise,” said Sakwa. "It's extremely worthwhile."

The Tax Assistance has adopted the Detroit non-profit Focus: HOPE as the site where volunteers serve roughly 150 families over three weekends.

Sakwa says there are four main tax credits available to low-income people. On the federal level, there's the Earned Income Tax Credit and child tax credits for families. On the state level, homeowners qualify for the homestead tax credit and home heating credits.

The state of Michigan also offers an Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income working people. However, Governor Snyder and the legislature greatly reduced the amount of that tax credit in 2011--something critics say amounts to a 70% tax increase on the working poor.

Other volunteer groups, including the non-profit Accounting Aid Society, also assist low-income people in Detroit and southeast Michigan with tax preparation.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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