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CFO Atwater Recognizes Florida Saves Week; Encourages Eligible Floridians to Claim Earned Income Tax Credit

2/22/2011

TALLAHASSEE—At a Cabinet meeting today, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater sponsored a resolution recognizing Feb. 20-27 as Florida Saves Week.  In concert with Florida Saves Week, CFO Atwater is encouraging Floridians to learn more about the importance of saving and preparing financially for their futures at one of a series of workshops his office is hosting.
 
“Setting up an attainable budget with a savings plan is the key to achieving financial prosperity,” said CFO Jeff Atwater. “I applaud the work of the University of Florida and other organizations throughout the state that are using this week to promote financial education and smart saving habits.”
 
One way some Floridians can get started on their savings this year is to claim an immediate cash refund of up to $5,000 this tax season.  As many as 200,000 Floridians are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which is a refundable tax credit designed for lower income working families and individuals. The amount of the credit varies depending on your level of income and how many dependents you support.  According to the IRS, as many as one in five people across the country qualify but don’t file for this tax credit. 
 
“We not only want to make Floridians aware that they may qualify for this money,” said CFO Atwater, “we also want to arm them with the information they need to wisely use the dollars they get back.”
Floridian Lazara Diaz knows firsthand the impact this tax credit can have for hard-working families looking to save for the future.  Ms. Diaz, a single mother and hotel manager, took a more flexible job with a significant pay cut so she could go back to college and earn her degree.  In 2009, she received a credit of $2,000 and is expecting a larger credit this year.  Using the money from the credit, Ms. Diaz was able to pay off her debts and start a savings account for her daughter’s college education.    
 
According to Kaye Schmitz, president of the Florida Prosperity Partnership (FPP), there are a number of studies that show taxpayers with incomes between $30,000 are $35,000 are unaware that they may qualify for the refund or they don’t pursue a refund because they need help with filing for the tax credit.  The FPP collaborates with more than 130 organizations statewide to help improve the financial stability of low-to-moderate-income Floridians.
 
“We are pleased to partner with CFO Atwater and use Florida Saves Week as an opportunity to connect eligible Floridians to free income tax preparation and to reach as many families as we possibly can,” said Schmitz, whose partner organizations have prepared more than a half million free tax returns generating $500 million in refunds for Floridians.  
 
CFO Atwater’s Department of Financial Services is hosting events throughout the state during the month of February as a part of the national America Saves initiative. Topics include the Earned Income Tax Credit, use of credit cards, identity theft, hurricane preparedness, small business security, life insurance, financial fraud and first-time homebuyer workshops. 
 
To find a free tax site in your area and a schedule of events occurring throughout the state for Florida Saves Week, logon to CFO Atwater’s financial literacy Web site, Family Fiscal Fitness, at www.myfloridacfo.com/FamilyFiscalFitness
 
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Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a statewide elected official and officer of the Florida Cabinet, oversees the Department of Financial Services including the Division of Insurance Fraud.  CFO Atwater’s priorities include fighting financial fraud, abuse and waste in government, reducing government spending and regulatory burdens that chase away businesses, and providing transparency and accountability in spending.