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Laurence Gottlieb explaining the EITC program Westchester County has launched its annual effort to help low- and moderate-income people with their income tax forms. Outreach to businesses whose employees might benefit from the program is also being initiated.

The initiative focuses on the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

Go to www.westchestergov.com/eitc for further information.

Last year, the county helped 5,256 residents get income tax refunds of about $5.7 million. Eligible taxpayers can receive credits of up to $7,637 on their 2009 tax return, based on their income, filing status and household size. The IRS estimates that thousands of eligible Westchester residents have failed to apply for this significant tax credit – either because they didn’t know about it or were unable to fill out the appropriate forms.

“This annual outreach is important in three ways,” said County Executive Robert P. Astorino. “It helps people fill out their tax forms correctly; it helps them get the full tax refunds they are entitled to; and it brings money back to our local economy.”

IRS staff member anwering questionsRepresenting Astorino at Thursday’s event was his director of economic development, Laurence Gottlieb. Staff from the IRS was on hand as well.

Individuals who want to find out if they qualify for the EITC and free tax preparation services should call United Way’s 2-1-1. The service will run until April 15. It is open to taxpayers with household incomes below $49,000 at sites in White Plains, Yonkers, Mount Vernon, Ossining and Peekskill. Businesses looking to get information on how to bring the program to their work place should also call 2-1-1.

This initiative is a collaboraton of the following county departments and community organizations: TD Bank, Office of the County Executive; the departments of Social Services, Consumer Protection, and Senior Programs and Services; Educational Opportunity Center of Westchester, Westchester Chapter of the AARP,  Interfaith Council for Action, The College of Westchester,Westcop, Community Capital Resources, Westchester Community College, Pace Law School, The Volunteer Center, United Way’s  2-1-1 Hudson Valley Region, Business Council of Westchester and the Westchester Hispanic Coalition.