2018-03-15 / Editorial

A few reasons why you should file a tax return

Legislative Lowdown
by Rep. Martin Grohman

Income taxes are complex and let’s be honest, not a lot of fun. However, here in Maine they are due Tuesday, April 17 and there is nothing any of us can do about it.

Believe it or not there is some good news this year. Tax rates for most people at both the state and federal level have been decreasing, and there are new programs that you may be able to take advantage of.

I especially want to remind you that even if you don’t normally file a Maine tax return because you do not owe any taxes, this year, you should take the time. That’s because two newer tax provisions, the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Property Tax Fairness Credit are “refundable” credits, meaning you can get money back even if you don’t owe any taxes. This can really help make ends meet.

There are also credits for qualified child care expenses and adult dependent care. All of these credits are meant to help with difficult expenses, but you can only qualify if you file a tax return.

The Earned Income Tax Credit is the most significant of the credits I’ll describe. It is designed to help low- to moderate-income working people make ends meet. You must have a job to qualify, but if you do, it can really make a difference.

The Property Tax Fairness Credit is the newer version of what was once known as the Circuit Breaker program. The big takeaway is that if you are a low-income person and your housing expenses are high, you may qualify – and this includes renters. So be sure to check.

There’s also a refundable Sales Tax Fairness Credit, intended to offset the impact of sales taxes for low-income and middle-income filers. Refundable means you can get a check back even if you don’t owe taxes. You can get up to $180 per household in sales tax back if you qualify.

Recent college graduate? The Opportunity Maine Tax Credit reimburses student loan payments for college graduates who live and work in Maine. Eligibility is a little complex to explain here, but there is a very good explanation at liveandworkinmaine.com under the ‘Work in Maine’ tab.

Did you build a wheelchair ramp, add grab bars, move light switches for easy access or take other measures to make your home more accessible in 2017? You may qualify for a new tax credit called “Access Able Home.” This program was developed by Rep. Archie Verow, a tireless advocate for multiple sclerosis, and I know he would be proud to know it helped you.

Of course, I haven’t been able to cover all of the details, and eligibility for these programs depends on your individual situation. I hope you’ll file a tax return – billions in potential tax credits are left unused every year. You can start by taking advantage of some free tax prep help. To get started, call 2-1-1, visit CA$H Maine at cashmaine.org or ask AARP (search for AARP Tax Aide). I can help if you run into roadblocks. Check with me at martingrohman@legislature.maine.gov or 283-1476.

Note: thanks to generous donations, fuel assistance funding from the Biddeford Fuel Relief Fund is available. If you or someone you know is in need of an emergency 100 gallon delivery to keep the furnace running, please contact myself, Desrochers Oil, Jim Godbout Plumbing and Heating, or Biddeford General Assistance to see if you qualify.

Also, thank you to so many who reached out to me in support of the student debt refinancing bond I am sponsoring for Gov. Paul LePage. I am pleased to tell you this bond proposal is having a public hearing on Thursday, March 15. I am hoping to be able to move this idea forward and your input would be very helpful. If you are interested in this issue or any other, don’t hesitate to write or call.

Rep. Martin Grohman of Biddeford is an Independent State Representative serving his second term in the Maine Legislature and is a member of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. Outside the legislature, he hosts a podcast for Maine entrepreneurs called The Grow Maine Show – available on Apple Podcasts – and is chair of the Biddeford Solid Waste & Recycling Commission. Sign up for legislative updates at www.growmaine.com or at facebook.com/repgrohman.

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