Louisiana families are working harder than ever, with many of them spending nights and weekends on the job instead of at Little League, Scouts or the PTA. Their incomes, however, are not keeping up with the costs of housing, health care and education. Louisiana still has one of the highest poverty rates in the country, even when many of our citizens are working.

There is an important and often overlooked tax credit that can help working families who are struggling to make ends meet. The federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) was first implemented in 1975 to provide individuals with an incentive to find employment instead of take welfare. The credit is targeted specifically to lower-income families and individuals who work.

Here’s how the EITC works. If you have two or more qualifying children, the maximum earned income credit for tax year 2003 is $4,204. The maximum credit is $2,547 if you have one qualifying child and $382 if you have no children. To be eligible for full or partial credit, a taxpayer must have an adjusted gross income less than $33,692 with two or more children, $29,666 with one child, and $11,230 with no children. Adjusted gross income limits increase by $1,000 for each category if you are married filing jointly.

The federal government estimates that in tax year 2001, roughly 93,000 Louisiana taxpayers did not claim the EITC and missed out on $81.2 million. Most taxpayers file for the EITC in February, and last tax year roughly 20 million citizens nationwide received $36 billion in earned income credits. It is estimated that close to 500,000 Louisiana citizens may qualify this tax year for the EITC.

As government officials, we are not always as proactive as we should be when informing citizens how to keep more money in their wallets. I am working to do everything I can to change that. Too many Louisiana families are missing out on the benefits of the EITC. They have worked hard for this money, and as Treasurer I want to do everything I can to help them keep it.

For earned income credit forms and publications, call the IRS at 1-800-829-3676. If you have questions or need more information, call 1-800-829-1040. The Treasury also has links to EITC information on its website located at www.latreasury.com.