Workers who are homeless face serious challenges that may prevent them from claiming the EITC and CTC. Without a stable place to live, workers who are homeless may not receive mail consistently, making it hard to be sure they will receive the documents needed to file a tax return and claim tax credits. Sometimes, people who are homeless are unable to keep track of documents they may have received or their documents have been destroyed.
- Food banks and soup kitchens
- Shelters and transitional housing programs
- Job placement assistance programs
- Health clinics
1. Let workers know they do not need a permanent address to file a tax return and claim tax credits.
Shelters or other service providers, such as a health care clinic or a drop-in day center, can allow residents or clients to use their address for tax purposes. Organizations that do this should ensure their mail-handling procedures are secure and provide a way for refund checks to reach workers safely. Some organizations require mail to be opened in front of two staff members so that both can verify that checks were received. Workers who are not staying in a shelter can use a relative’s or friend’s address.
2. Help workers obtain replacement tax documents.
Inform workers that they can file taxes and claim tax credits even if they misplaced or did not receive their W-2 or 1099 forms. If workers cannot get a copy of their documents from their employer, they can complete Form 4852, “Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, or Form 1099-R, Distributions From Pensions, Annuities, Retirement or Profit-Sharing Plans, IRAs, Insurance Contracts, etc.” This form requests information about wages and taxes withheld, so it is helpful if workers have documentation, such as a final pay stub, to complete it. Workers without a final pay stub may still be able to fill out the form by estimating their earnings. Organizations can refer workers to a local VITA site that can help do this or assist workers who need a copy of their previous tax return. See How to file taxes if you are experiencing homelessness for more information.
3. Enlist organizations serving people who are homeless.
Partner with food banks, soup kitchens, shelters, transitional housing programs and local welfare agencies that come in contact with homeless persons. Work with shelters to establish free on-site tax filing clinics. Engage job placement assistance programs for homeless persons in tax credit outreach. They can extend their efforts by informing employers about the credits and encouraging them to share information with all of their employees.
4. Explore “street newspapers.”
Street newspapers raise public awareness about poverty and homelessness by publishing articles by people who are homeless or formerly homeless, advocates, and professional writers and are sold by people who are homeless. Outreach Campaigns can encourage publishers to inform sellers about the EITC and CTC, write stories about the tax credits, print the locations of local VITA sites, and place advertisements to recruit free tax preparation volunteers.
5. Connect with your city’s “Plan to End Homelessness.”
Enlist participating groups in tax credit outreach activities. Do an internet search to find out if your state or city has a “Plan to End Homelessness.”
Contact organizations that have state or local affiliates to identify local groups providing services for people experiencing homelessness.
- National Coalition for the Homeless, (202) 462-4822
- National Alliance to End Homelessness, (202) 638-1526
- National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, (202) 638-2535
- National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, (800) VET-HELP (838-4357)
- State Coordinators for the Education of Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness