3 Key Tax Time Reminders for Low- and Middle-Class Americans
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Pew Research calls it the "Lost Decade Of the Middle Class."
"Since 2000, the middle class has shrunk in size, fallen backward in income and wealth and shed some -- but by no means all -- of its characteristic faith in the future," says the Pew Research Center in a 2012 study targeting the financial health of the U.S. middle class.
Low-income Americans have it worse. According to the Urban Institute, in 2011, 39.6% of American families were living below 200% of the federal poverty level. "Many of these families struggle daily to make ends meet, even if they work," says the Institute in a recent report.
That's disturbing news, and 2013 has started out on shaky ground with a fourth-quarter gross domestic product report showing the U.S. economy experiencing negative growth (although most economists say that should be temporary.)
If there is a silver lining, it may come from an unlikely source: the Internal Revenue Service.
According to Capital One Financial (COF) , there are some opportunities to save more money on taxes for low- and middle-class families -- you just have to know where to look.
"Tax season is a good opportunity to plan for the future, especially if you anticipate receiving a refund," says Mariadele Priest, director of community development banking at Capital One Bank. "When individuals learn how to save, budget, pay down their debts and build their assets, they can become more financially secure and direct more money back into the local economy."
That's where taxes -- more specifically, the lack of them -- can make a difference. "Being thorough in the tax preparation process is critical to ensuring low-to-middle income families can take advantage of important credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, that can jump-start a long-term savings plan," she says.