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You may have noticed that we recently made some changes to Michigan Legal Help. In December 2016, we went into the field, asking real MLH users what they thought about the way we organize content on the website. Based on their answers, we rearranged and renamed some of our legal categories. We hope this will make it even easier for you to find the answers you're looking for. Do you like what we've done? Use the orange button at the top of this page to tell us what you think!
Free Tax Help
Click this link to the Tax Tips and Information for Low-Income Individuals toolkit to learn what you need to know about the earned income tax credit and other resources available for low-income people filing personal state and federal income taxes. You can also easily find out where to get your taxes done for free. Click this link to Michigan Free Tax Help for more information.
IRS Tax Tip: Claim the Earned Income Tax Credit
The following tax tip was provided by the IRS. For additional information, visit our toolkit Tax Tips and Information for Low-Income Individuals:
The Earned Income Tax Credit has helped workers with low and moderate incomes get a tax break for 40 plus years. Yet, one out of every five eligible workers fails to claim it. Here are some things taxpayers should know about the EITC:
- Review Your Eligibility.
- Taxpayers who worked and earned under $53,505 may qualify for EITC. Filers should review EITC eligibility rules if their household income or family situation has changed. They may qualify for EITC this year, even if they did not in the past. To qualify, a taxpayer must file a federal income tax return claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit. This is true even if a taxpayer is not otherwise required to file a tax return. Use the EITC Assistant tool to find out about eligibility rules and amounts.
- Know the Rules. Taxpayers need to understand the rules before they claim the EITC. It is important to get this right. Here are some factors to consider:
- Taxpayers who are married and file a separate return do not qualify for the EITC.
- Filers must have a Social Security number valid for employment for themselves, their spouse (if married), and any qualifying child listed on their filed tax return.
- Taxpayers must have earned income. This may include earnings from working for someone else as an employee or being self-employed.
- Filers may be married or single, with or without children to qualify. Those who do not have children must also meet the age, residency and dependency rules. For a child to qualify, they must have lived with the taxpayer for more than six months in 2016. In addition, the child must meet the age, residency, relationship and joint return rules to qualify.
- U.S. Armed Forces members serving in a combat zone have special rules that apply.
- Lower Your Tax or Get a Refund.
- Filers who qualify for EITC could pay less federal tax, no tax or even get a refund. The EITC could be worth up to $6,269. The average credit was $2,482 last year.
- Use Free Services.
- For those who do their own taxes, the best way to file a return to claim EITC is to use IRS Free File. Free brand name software will figure out taxes and the EITC automatically. Combining e-file with direct deposit is the fastest and safest way to get a refund. Free File is only available on IRS.gov/freefile.
Taxpayers can also get free help preparing and e-filing their return to claim the EITC. The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or VITA program, offers free help at thousands of sites around the country. Get help with health care law tax provisions with Free File or VITA.
Refunds Held Until Feb 15. Beginning in 2017, if taxpayers claim the Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit on their tax return, the IRS must hold their refund until at least February 15. This applies to the entire refund, even the portion not associated with these credits. However, the IRS will begin accepting and processing tax returns once the filing season begins. Taxpayers should file as usual. There is no need to wait until February 15.
For more on EITC, see IRS Publication 596, Earned Income Credit. It’s available in English and Spanish on IRS.gov.
Child Support Calculator now available!
Introducing "Do-It-Yourself Tools," and More!
It may be summertime, but the MLH staff have been working hard! We celebrated the 4th anniversary of our launch on August 17. Happy birthday to us!
We have recently added to the website a number of new resources we expect will be of great interest to MLH visitors. Our new content includes:
- Food Stamp Calculator: People can use this tool to find out if their households are eligible for Food Stamps, and get an estimated benefit amount. The enhanced articles in the toolkit include additional information about food stamps.
- I Wasn’t Paid for My Work: Wage and Hour Claims Toolkit: The resources in this toolkit explain what a worker can do if they weren’t paid for their work, or if their employer isn’t properly paying them. It includes referrals to legal services agencies that can assist.
- I Need to Make a Will Toolkit: Interested people can use this toolkit to learn about whether they need a will, and how to create one. The toolkit includes a Do-It-Yourself Will tool for drafting a Michigan statutory will.
- Small Estates: Transferring Property When Someone Dies Toolkit: Lots of information about small estates, plus informal and formal probate of larger estates. The Do-It-Yourself Small Estates tool provides the forms that heirs need to handle small estates from start to finish.
- Two new articles about Child Protective Services: “CPS and Your Family” and “Child Abuse and Neglect Central Registry.”
Many of our toolkits have recently been updated or modified. Please take some time to revisit the website and see what new resources we added!
You will notice that our forms (previously known as “Automated Online Interviews”) have been renamed “Do-It-Yourself” tools. We anticipate this will make it even easier for visitors to find the resources they need.
We want to remind you that LiveHelp is available weekdays from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. LiveHelp is a chat-based feature where website visitors can get assistance navigating the website. (They cannot get legal advice.) This service has been very successful: in July 2016 alone LiveHelp agents conducted 427 chats and replied to 237 after-hours emails. Just click the orange “Need Help?” button in the corner of the screen.
Thank you for using MLH!
New Food Stamps Toolkit and Calculator launched!
MLH is pleased to announce a new toolkit in the Public Benefits section all about Food Stamps. The I Need Food Stamps (FAP) toolkit has information about how to apply for food stamps, who is eligible, and additional help for people who are homeless or who are immigrants. The toolkit also has a link to the Food Stamp (FAP) Calculator, where people can find out if they are eligible for Food Stamps, and if they are, how much Food Stamps they can expect. These resources used to be found at FoodStampHelp.org, but MLH worked with Legal Services of Eastern Michigan to update them and move them to Michigan Legal Help.
MLH in the NYT
11th Self-Help Center opens in Alcona County!
We are pleased to announce the Grand Opening of our 11th Self-Help Center. On Wednesday, May 18th the Alcona County Library in Harrisville, MI welcomed partners from the courts and wider community to celebrate this new hub of legal assistance for residents of the surrounding areas, including Alcona, Oscoda, Arenac and Iosco counties.
“We are very pleased to be a part of the Michigan Legal Help Self-Help Center network,” said Hon. Laura A. Frawley, Chief Judge of the Alcona County Circuit Court, “The 23rd Judicial Circuit is one of the largest circuits in Michigan, and serves the residents of four rural counties: Alcona, Arenac, Iosco and Oscoda. In areas with low population and high unemployment, there are real limitations on access to legal representation or legal aid clinics and other services. By getting legal information and assistance from the Self-Help Center at the Alcona County Library, people will be better equipped to bring their cases before the court, which will improve their experiences as well as make court operations smoother.” She adds, “Individuals from any of these counties are also welcome to visit our Self-Help Center, or the one at the Oscoda County Public Library.”
“We are delighted to be working with so many community partners in Alcona County and throughout the state,” said Michigan Legal Help Program Director Angela Tripp. “The addition of the Self-Help Center of Alcona County gives us the chance to reach even more people in northern Michigan who need legal self-help tools. We are so excited about the growth in the Self-Help Center network state-wide, and about this new location in Alcona County, First of 83!”
Education Section added
The MLH site recently introduced a new content area: Education. Two toolkits, My Child Needs or Gets Special Education Services and My Child is Facing Punishment or Explusion from School deal with special education-accommodations, discipline, student rights, Limited English Proficiency students. Soon an interview will be added to allow parents to create the letters necessary to petition for these services.