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RISMEDIA, February 6, 2010—(MCT)—There’s a bright spot in the nation’s dismal economic climate this tax season: The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for 2009, meaning more families are eligible for a larger return from the federal government.

The EITC now includes low-income working families with three or more children, and the top income limit has increased to $48,279 from $41,646 in 2008.

Changes also have been made to the definition of a qualifying child. The IRS estimates more than 5 million additional families will be eligible for the expanded credit this year.

The EITC gave back $50 billion to 24 million taxpayers across the country in 2008, said David Williams, director of electronic tax administration and refundable credits for the IRS. “EITC is one of the largest and most effective anti-poverty programs in government. It lifted millions of people out of poverty last year,” Williams said.

The IRS estimates one in four eligible taxpayers fail to file for the EITC. It’s turning to community partnerships and EITC Awareness Day events to get the word out to those who may not realize they’re eligible for the credit, including workers without qualifying children, non-traditional families and those who earn less than what’s required to file a tax return. “We want people to know that they’re eligible for a refundable tax credit, which means if you don’t owe money, we will still owe you money,” Williams said.

In addition to EITC Awareness Day, the agency is co-sponsoring Volunteer Income Assistance sites with local organizations, offering help with tax preparation and information about EITC and how to claim the credit. “EITC Awareness Day is especially important this year because people who lost their jobs last year, or who went from full-time to part-time work, could be eligible for the first time,” said Christopher Miller, IRS media relations spokesman for Wisconsin, in an e-mail.

(c) 2010, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.