By State Treasurer John Kennedy

Small businesses and working families in our state have a lot more in common than one might think. They both know how to stretch a dollar, live on a budget and make it on less. The sad truth is many businesses would like to pay their employees more money, but they cannot afford the extra costs.

There is one way that both small and large businesses can help their workers take home more of their paychecks without having to dip into operating expenses for the money. They can increase awareness about a federal tax break known as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

The EITC is a federal tax credit geared toward people who work hard but don’t make a lot of money. Employers in our state may have several workers who fit into this category, and they can help spread the word about this important program.

Here’s how the EITC works. The tax credit provides low-income workers with a rebate of all or a portion of the federal income taxes they pay each year. In order to qualify, an individual must have a job and file a tax return. It could mean more money in the hands of Louisiana workers as much as $4,300 for families with two or more qualifying children.

In the 2003 tax year, 512,351 Louisiana citizens received $1.09 billion in earned income credits. However, many working families in our state overlook the EITC when they prepare their taxes. The federal government estimates that more than 93,000 Louisiana citizens miss out on $81 million in earned income tax credits each year. There are still people in our state who are not aware of the program and are leaving money on the table.

To qualify for the EITC, an individual taxpayer must have an adjusted gross income of less than $34,458 with more than one qualifying child, $30,338 with one qualifying child or $11,490 with no qualifying children. Adjusted gross income levels increase by $1,000 for each category if married filing jointly.

The EITC is one way the federal government has helped to lift millions of families and children out of poverty. The tax credit can make life better for thousands of hardworking men and women who just cant seem to make ends meet.

I am asking for Louisiana employers to bring the EITC to the attention of more working families in our state. For more information, visit www.latreasury.com. EITC information is also available by contacting the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040.