The Earned Income Tax Credit is a way for low to moderate income families to keep more of what they earn with very little effort; yet many Delawareans don't take advantage of it.

As tax season gets underway, Delaware Congressman John Carney alongside Wilmington city and community leaders, kicked off the state's 11th annual campaign at Ezion Mt. Carmel Church, to educate people about the credit.

EITC is an IRS refund that benefits families, with three or more children, who earn less than $45,060 a year. Depending on family size and income, the tax credit could be as much as $5,891.

Last year, the IRS says 69,000 Delawareans filed for EITC and the average refund amounted to $2,100, totaling $147 million.

"It's kind of a no-brainer," said Carney. "It incentivizes low-income people to go to work, as opposed to just staying on public assistance, because they get an additional amount based on the income that they earn... In addition, it puts that money back into the community." 

IRS representative Elizabeth Hollingsworth says, nationwide, 4 out of 5 taxpayers who qualify for EITC claim it, with Delaware being number 2 in the country in terms of participation. 

"Delaware's rate is double the national average, and so that makes them among the best in the nation in terms of covering or reaching the people that we're targeting," said Hollingsworth.

However, 20 percent of eligible Delawareans are still not filing for it, often because they don't know about the credit, have never filed a tax return before or because there might be a language barrier.

In an effort to reach those individuals, the state is partnering with the Nehemiah Gateway Community Development Corporation, Ezion Mt. Carmel Church, Wilmington City Council, the United Way of Delaware and the IRS' local office in the state, offering free tax help and preparation at 22 sites throughout the state; seven are located in Wilmington.

"Do not assume that you do not qualify for the program," admonished Council President Theo Gregory. "Don't sit in the dark, don't stay naive, don't be ignorant to the facts. Find out what it's all about and take advantage of it." 

Rev. John Moore, vice president of the United Way of Delaware, says the credit is an effective anti-poverty tax program that 'encourages individuals to climb,' putting his own spin on the acronym -- something the Congressman echoes. 

"It helps people climb out of poverty onto the bottom rungs of the economic ladder so that they can be more successful in the future and take care of their families in the interim, because it gives them that little extra boost."