By Amy Everitt

If you’re working hard but barely making ends meet, you’re not alone. Research shows that 8 out of 10 Americans live paycheck to paycheck and nearly half aren’t able to cover an unexpected $400 expense.

In a high-cost state like California, it’s no secret that wages for most workers aren’t keeping up with the skyrocketing costs of housing, healthcare, food and transportation. But it might surprise you to learn that every year, low-wage workers in California are leaving more than $2 billion dollars on the table.

You read that correctly. Thousands of people working tirelessly to provide for their families are each missing out on hundreds or even thousands of dollars that could be going toward rent, building savings, or purchasing a car. And it’s happening because they’re not filing their taxes.

If you earned less than $56,000 last year, you may qualify for the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, a cashback credit for workers that puts money back in your pocket. If you earned $30,000 or less, you may also qualify for the California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC). Also starting this year, California’s new Young Child Tax Credit could mean up to an additional $1,000 for parents with a child age 6 or younger. However, you must file an income tax return to claim these credits. Depending on your income and family size, these credits combined could mean up to $8,000 back for you and your family!

Research shows that claiming the EITC can have a positive impact on your entire family in a variety of ways. Children whose parents receive an EITC boost have better health, perform better in school, are more likely to attend college. They also go on to earn more as adults than children in eligible families that don’t receive the EITC.

CalEITC4Me and our partners provide support and resources, so you can file your taxes for free without unnecessarily paying hundreds of dollars from your refund to for-profit tax preparers. Through Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), people have access to a trustworthy and stress-free way to file taxes with the help of IRS-certified volunteers. 

One worker who recently got her taxes done by a VITA preparer is Lynwood resident Gloria Saucedo, a parts inspector at a local factory. Saucedo received a refund of several thousand dollars, which included the Young Child Tax Credit. She plans to put that money into a 529 college savings account for her 2-year-old son Jorge.

This year, make sure you’re not leaving money on the table. To claim your refund and find a VITA site near you, visit or text ‘EITC’ to 555-888. It’s your money. Now it’s time to claim it! 

Amy Everitt is the President of Golden State Opportunity, a statewide nonprofit dedicated to ending poverty, and a 5th generation Californian.