Volunteers Will Help Families Gain Access to Tax Credits They May Not Be Aware of
(Boston) Jan. 26, 2016 – Boston Medical Center (BMC) is launching a first-of-its-kind program in the country to help parents of pediatric patients prepare and file their taxes when they are at the hospital for an outpatient appointment. The program, called StreetCred, is working with the Boston Tax Help Coalition to train tax preparation volunteers who will help eligible families gain access to tax credits they may not have been aware they are eligible for.
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), an annual tax benefit for people who work and bring home a low to moderate income, is the largest anti-poverty program in the country. The EITC has been shown to improve infant health outcomes, employment rates of single mothers, child educational achievement, and future earnings. However, over 20 percent of families eligible for this benefit – millions in the US – do not receive it for reasons including unknown eligibility, tax code complexity, and inaccessibility of tax assistance.
“StreetCred’s goal is to help make sure eligible families receive the EITC, which not only improves families’ financial stability, but also lessens poverty’s effects on child health,” said Michael Hole, MD, MBA, a pediatrics resident at BMC who co-developed the pilot program.
During the pilot program, the StreetCred team will work to assist 1,200 eligible outpatient pediatric patient families free of charge during the winter and spring of 2016, with the hopes of expanding in the future. They will call parents in advance of their child’s medical appointment to brief them about the program, and if they would like to participate, advise them on required documents to bring to complete the tax filing process.
To date, 24 BMC employees and over 50 community members have signed up to volunteer as a tax preparer. Volunteers will participate in a 4-8 hour in-person training session after reviewing an online module to familiarize themselves with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations and software. Returns will be filed electronically, which will give families access to the funds within 3-7 business days if they choose a direct deposit. Tax preparation will be available by appointment during and after normal clinic hours, as well as on select Saturdays in order to accommodate a variety of schedules.
This program is a leading example of BMC’s focus on the social determinants of health and the dedication of our providers to develop innovative, actionable programs with potential for tremendous impact on the livelihood of patients and families.
“As pediatricians, we saw a unique opportunity to help our patients while they are already at the hospital. They’re devoting precious time to this visit. Let’s make the most of it,” said Lucy Marcil, MD, MPH, a pediatrics resident at BMC and the program’s co-developer. “We will work to not only alleviate the stress of getting their taxes done, but also to ensure families are getting the money they’ve earned.”
StreetCred also will help engage and educate pediatrics residents about issues facing their patients and families so they can advocate for them and future patients. Additionally, the program’s developers will work to develop a guide that other hospitals and organizations can use to implement a similar program at their locations.
In 2013, the EITC and Child Tax Credit (CTC) helped lift 3.2 million and 1.7 million children out of poverty, respectively.
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