Sen. Tom Carper joined representatives from Delaware Tax and Financial Services Campaign to educate Delawareans on the earned income tax credit and free tax preparation services throughout the state.

Jan. 26 marked EITC Awareness Day, a nationwide effort to increase awareness about EITC and free tax preparation sites. For tax year 2016, 12,200 Delaware households received free tax preparation services and $18 million in federal and state refunds.

“For decades, the earned income tax credit has helped families who are struggling to make ends meet hold onto as much of their hard-earned income as possible,” said Carper. “Filing taxes can be very complicated, and many Delaware families find it difficult to know the benefits they’re entitled to claim. That’s why local organizations that provide help with tax filing are so important. I encourage every Delawarean in need of assistance to seek out the free help they need and avoid leaving money on the table this tax season.”

The Delaware Tax and Financial Services Campaign was founded by Nehemiah Gateway Community Development Corp. in partnership with Delaware Alliance for Community Advancement, First State Community Action Agency and $tand By Me. The program is funded by the VITA Grant Program, an IRS initiative designed to promote and support free tax preparation services for the underserved.

“The earned income tax credit has been a bipartisan effort that’s proven effective to help hard-working families gain a boost in their finances,” said Bernice Edwards, executive director of First State Community Action Agency. “Without it, many low-income families will continue struggling just to meet the demands of everyday life. What’s worse is qualifying for the credit and not knowing it. That is why EITC awareness is so key — it’s important for the financial health and well-being of the families who truly need it and have worked extremely hard for it.”

“Since its inception the earned income tax program has been a major resource in empowering the working poor,” said the Rev. Clifford Johnson, founder of Nehemiah Gateway Community Development Corp. “Each year thousands of taxpayers look to the many volunteers to assist them with tax preparation as well as aiding them to secure the returns that will improve their quality of life. As part of a coalition, Nehemiah Gateway strives to serve additional families that are not currently participating in the EITC program.”

Delawareans can learn more about the EITC and free tax preparation sites in New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties at irs.gov/individuals/find-a-location-for-free-tax-prep. Those seeking assistance should bring the following documents:

— Social Security cards, a Social Security number verification letter, a social security benefits statement or an IRS transcript for all persons listed on the return.

— Birth dates for all persons listed on the return.

— Copies of the previous year's federal and state returns.

— All income statements: Forms W-2 and 1099, Social Security, unemployment and other statements, such as pensions, stocks, interest and any documents showing taxes withheld. Those who own or run a business or farm should collect records of all their income to be presented at time of filing.

— All records of expenses, such as tuition, mortgage interest, or real estate taxes. Those who own or run a business or farm should collect records of all their expenses to be presented at time of filing.

— Bank routing numbers and account numbers to direct deposit any refund.

— Dependent child care information: name and address of paid caretakers and either their Social Security number or other tax identification number.

— For those who purchased coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement, 1095-A.