Hurricane victims may qualify for tax credit change

Hurricane Irma brought devastation to the Immokalee area. But, for many residents the pain of dealing with the aftermath continued when they learned that they wouldn’t quality for federal assistance.

Now, there are changes for this tax season that could help put money back in your pocket.

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), those who lived in any one of the hurricane disaster areas during 2017, may now qualify for a larger than normal earned income credit.

In order to qualify for the larger amount, taxpayers will have to compare their 2017 earnings with their 2016 earnings. If their earnings in 2017 was less than 2016, they can file their taxes using their 2016 earnings. However, it’s important that taxpayers calculate the earned income credit using both tax years to see which earned income credit is higher.

Katherine Riano, with Legal Aid Service of Collier County, said that it’s important that taxpayers seek advice from qualified tax professionals who are aware of this update from the IRS.

The IRS expects the earliest refunds to be issued by February 27, 2018 if the taxpayer elects to have their funds returned via direct deposit and if there are no issues with the tax return.

Additionally, each year the IRS requires those who file taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) rather than a Social Security Number due to their undocumented status, to renew their ITINs. This year, the IRS is requiring those ITIN’s with the middle digits of 70, 71, 72, or 80 to renew.

The renewal requirement is also mandatory for all undocumented immigrants who have not filed their taxes in the last three consecutive years.

In order to renew their ITINs, the taxpayer must complete a Form W-7 and provide identification documents. It’s important to point out that the renewal process can take place when the taxpayer files their taxes.

For more information about assistance with ITINs and the new changes this year, taxpayers may reach out to the United Way of Collier Count which runs the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. Assistance will be available in Immokalee at the Guadalupe Center located at 505 Hope Circle from 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. on February 14, February 28, March 14, March 28 and April 11. However, appointments are needed so it’s recommended that taxpayers call 2-1-1 to schedule an appointment.

Travis can be reached at

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