The Star-Ledger

Corzine Talks Up Tax Break At Newark Center

The Star-Ledger — Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Star-Ledger Staff

Touting his effort to increase tax breaks for working poor families, Gov. Jon Corzine yesterday visited a free tax-preparation center in Newark.

The center is run by N.J. Citizen Action and underwritten by several area banks. Accountants prepare taxes free for any family with an income of less than $40,000 as part of an effort at the height of the tax season to steer low-income taxpayers away from commercial tax preparers who charge high fees and offer high-interest loans against expected refunds.

"The steps going on inside this room, working with individuals who are poor or struggling to make ends meet, makes it possible that life is a little easier," Corzine said. "It is absolutely essential we are doing everything we can to help those trying to improve their lives."

Corzine said New Jersey is one of few states that doesn't provide tax credits on earned income up to the same level as the federal government: $40,000 per family. The program reduces the income subject to federal taxes for families with low incomes.

Corzine proposed in his recent budget address boosting the state's earned income tax credit up to the same level as the federal government's. It currently stops at $20,000 income. By doubling it, Corzine said, it would add as many as 300,000 families to the program.

"The earned income tax credit is about rewarding people for participating in society and trying to improve the lives of their families," Corzine said.

Appearing with Corzine at the center was Jeldetha Davis, a single mother of five from Newark who works as a package loader for UPS.

Davis earned $20,730 last year. While she qualified for a $3,290 earned income credit on her federal taxes, she made too much to qualify for a state credit. Her federal tax refund was $3,290. Her state tax refund was $66. Had the higher limit been in place, it would have boosted her state refund by $658.

Davis said the money is important for her because it is how she funds savings accounts for each of her five children, allowing her to put away as much as $500 a year toward college or future needs.

Besides preparing her taxes, the center over the past several years has helped Davis clean up her credit, and she is now in the process of trying to buy her own home.

The tax center, at 24 Clinton St. in Newark, will be open through April, according to Phyllis Salowe-Kaye of N.J. Citizen Action. She said the center hopes to prepare taxes for more than 1,000 families.

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