Public Benefits are Key! Working Families Tax Credit – March 28th, 2024

In this special edition of our Public Benefits are Key! Series, we were joined by:

Marcy Bowers of Statewide Poverty Action Network, a fierce advocate and negotiator that shaped the Working Families Tax Credit

Patricia Bowen of Solid Ground, a skilled public benefits attorney and frequent collaborator on Public Benefits are Key! Trainings

The Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC) has had a long journey from inception to incentive – it took 13 years for advocates and lawmakers, strategize, pass, fund, and implement this tax credit. Champions such as Marcy Bowers are thrilled for the WFTC to be in it’s second year as it provides a cash resource available to low- and moderate-income Washingtonians, who are most affected by living in a state that is tax-burdened due to an upside-down tax code. This is a uniquely inclusive public benefit, which does not impact a person’s access to other benefits like TANF (cash benefits), EBT (food benefits), or Social Security benefits, offers higher awards to those with greater need, and can be accessed to non-citizens who file their taxes with ITINs.

What is the Working Families Tax Credit?

The Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC) is a resource that…

  • Is accessible to low-income and moderate-income Washingtonians
  • Can provide applicants with $50-$1,255 annually
  • Similar to the Earned Income Tax Credit, doesn’t need to be paid back
  • Is easy to apply for, as long as you file your taxes
  • Is not restricted to families – individuals qualify too!
  • Can be applied for any time of year

And it is expected to have huge impacts!

  • About 425,000 Washingtonians are expected to be eligible for cash rebate of $1,255
  • 1 in 4 kids will benefit – kids who benefit from low-barrier tax credits have higher math and reading scores and are more likely to graduate
  • Communities of color, immigrant communities, and low-income communities are expected to gain the most
  • Both rural and urban communities will benefit – Adams, Yakima, and Okanogan county have the highest proportion of eligible applicants. King County has 95,000 eligible applicants.

Who is Eligible for the WFTC?

To obtain this tax credit, you must fit four criteria:

  1. You must live in WA for more than 183 days per year (about 6 months, nonconsecutively)
  2. You must have filed a federal tax return – this is possible with a Social Security Number (SSN) OR an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
  3. You are 25-65 if single OR have a qualifying child – this means a dependent child who is 18 or younger, or up to age 24 if in school, AND who has a SSN or ITIN
  4. You must have earned at least $1 in income in the tax year you’re applying for, but below a certain income limits – note that disability benefits, child support, or other cash benefits don’t qualify as earned income

Income limits depend on number of dependents and whether you are filing as head of household or jointly. See below for exact 2024 income limits.

Credit amounts vary by number of qualifying children and other factors. See below for a full list of maximum credit amounts based on number of qualifying children.

More information on income eligibility and credit amounts can be found at the Department of Revenue website.

NOTE that non-US citizens are eligible for this tax credit if they have an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) and file taxes. To get an ITIN, you can go through the IRS – make an appointment with your local IRS office on IRS.gov. While it can take some time to be assigned an ITIN, the IRS can help you to file your taxes during the process. You can apply for the Working Families Tax Credit at any point at any point during the year, even after filing your taxes!

If you are an immigrant, know that the WFTC will not jeopardize your safety and security!

Under Washington state law, your information and that of your dependents won’t be shared with any other state or federal agency, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Also, receiving this tax credit will not impact a person’s ability to obtain a visa or green card because a tax credit does not violate the public charge rule. Nor will it impact access to any other public benefits such as TANF (cash assistance) or SNAP (food assistance).

Not sure if you’re eligible? Do you need help submitting your application?

Call the WFTC Contact Center at 360-763-7300 or use the Eligibility Assistant on the website. Contact center providers assistance in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese, with interpreters available for over 300 languages!

How Can I Apply for the WFTC?

To apply for the Working Families tax Credit, you can choose to apply at the same time you are filing your taxes, or at another time.

Did you know? You can apply outside of tax season! Tax filing is the most convenient time to apply for many, but is not required. This means that you can forget to apply for WFTC when filing taxes, but still access later. Unlike the tax filing deadline, you have until December 31st to submit your WFTC application.

AND you can apply for the Working Families Tax Credit each year for three years (e.g. if you forgot to apply in 2022, you can claim that year’s tax credit until 2025)

To apply for the Working Families Tax Credit, you must:

  1. File your federal taxes
  2. Retrieve your tax return
  3. Fill out a WFTC application in person, online, or via paper application

To apply while filing your taxes, you can:

Note that applicants have the option to use paid services to file taxes, however some of them are less likely to help with WFTC applications – free resources are likely to make it easier to apply for the WFTC.

Don’t forget to file your taxes before April 15th!

To apply seperate of your taxes, you can:

  • Visit the Department of Revenue website – note that you’ll need to create a free online account
    • Applications available in English and Spanish
  • Mail in a paper application – download and fill the application and mail it and a copy of your tax return to the Department of Revenue.
    • Applications available in English, Spanish, Arabic. Khmer, Korean, Marshallese, Russian, Chinese, Somali, Tagalog, Ukranian, and Vietnamese.
  • Apply in person – you can visit Department of Revenue offices in Seattle, Kent, Bothell, and Tacoma. Addresses and operating hours available on the Department of Revenue website

To file your taxes, you will need to have access to your tax documents for the prior year (like a form 1040), a Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), and possibly a State ID card, Driver’s License, or Passport.

How Will I Get my Payment?

The Working Families Tax Credit is dispensed as a cash rebate, or a cash payment from the WA Department of Revenue. This means you will not receive this payment in your federal tax return, but via check or direct deposit within 60-90 days.

To track your payment, you can use the ‘Where’s My Refund’ Tool on the Department of Revenue website or call the WFTC Call Center at 360-763-7300.

Want to spread the word about the Working Families Tax Credit?

Over 400,000 Washington households are eligible, but only 190,000 households submitted applications last year – that’s less than half! In King County, about 40% of eligible households received benefits.

Please share this blog with your clients, colleagues, families, and neighbors! For printable flyers, you can visit the WFTC Coalition website or the Department of Revenue website.

Do you have feedback about the application process or want to share your experience? Improvement of the Working Families Tax Credit can happen when you let your voice be heard! Contact Marcy to share.