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I CAN HAZ CROISSANTZ?
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So a common problem with low-income households is that they don't know
what government services they qualify for, and as a result, go without
the government assistance (food, housing, etc.) they are entitled to.
Almost everyone fills out tax forms anyway, and this provides a lot of
about your income and demographic status. Why
not have the government send back (along with your refund, if you are
getting one) a little note telling you what government services you
qualify for, with contact information where you can apply or find out
A provision could be made for people whose income is so low that they
do not need to file taxes. There could be listed an address or phone
number you could contact for information.
Similar system to determine eligibility for federal programs [beland, Oct 04 2004]
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||Many such services use your tax
return to verify eligibility, so
this seems like a logical next step.
||You don't specifiy what provision could be made for low income groups. There has been extensive advertising for Working Familys Tax Credit and Childrens Tax credit, and helplines are available 14 hours a day 7 days a week. If they can't give advice on the benefits for which you might qualify they will give you the phone number or address of someone who can help. Local councils always offer advice on benefits available when sending council tax bills. If you're not claiming money you're entitled to it hardly seems fair to blame it on someone else.
||This is, in fact, a larger
problem than one might realize.
I know of a number of local
charitable organizations that
exist solely to assist people
with finding services they
||But services would definitely have to raise their budgets or tighten the rules for qualification if everyone who qualified for social security, for example, suddenly applied.
||It seems to me that sending someone a note saying "you should call this number to find out what programs you are eligible for" would be considerably more effective than putting out an ad and hoping the right people see it and realize it applies to them. The federal government (here in the states) already mails you income tax forms; why not include a note near the "Am I required to file?" section saying "If you don't file, you may want to compute your income and call the following number for information about government programs for which you are eligible." or "If your income was less than the filing threshold, turn to page 23 for a summary of government programs for which you may be eligible."
||GovBenefits warns that not all programs are currently included, but it's expanding. It also doesn't have the most efficient interface (shock, gasp, surprise), asking you a slew of questions about railroad income, when it should determine if you have anything to do with that, and then get more detail later, only if necessary.
||It also doesn't include state and local programs, which would be super-useful. Clearly, it would be useful for those states with income taxes to adopt this notify-you-after-we-get-your-tax-forms system.