Illinois workers no longer excluded from EIC tax relief due to age or immigration status


Illustration by Olivia Abeyta

Illinois General Assembly passed a bill expanding the Earned Income Credit tax relief program in April. Now, childless workers ages 18 to 24 and 65 and older along with immigrants who file taxes using ITIN are eligible for relief.

Shannon Tyler, Copy Editor

Eleven years after immigrating to the United States, Hayde Flores opened her small business, Total Nutrition Belmont, in 2019. 

Flores uses an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, a tax processing number available for U.S. nonresidents, instead of a social security number. Because of that, she didn’t qualify for the tax reliefs that many other low-income people do until this April. 

“I think to myself, ‘I’m here, working hard like other people, but I can’t do nothing,’” Flores said. “My husband last year worked two jobs, I worked my business and still (we) have to pay more.” 

In April, the Illinois General Assembly amended the Illinois Income Tax Act, expanding the state’s Earned Income Credit tax relief to people like Flores. EIC is a state-sanctioned benefit for working people with low to moderate income that reduces the amount of taxes owed similar to the federal Earned Income Tax Credit program. 

Illinois’ EIC’s expansion will include childless workers ages 18 to 24 and over 65, as well as immigrants using ITINs starting in the 2023 tax year. In addition to increasing access to tax relief for low-income people, especially undocummented working immigrants, the expansion will also increase the state’s EIC tax relief amount from an 18% to 20% match of the amount the federal program gives for each taxable year. 

“The message that we receive (from the state) is that they hear us,” Flores said, referring to immigrants, like herself, using ITIN numbers. “That feels so good because we cannot vote.” 

Groups including the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and its member organization Northern Illinois Justice for Our Neighbors have fought for this law for about three years, along with many other immigrant, worker and family advocate organizations. The organizations held rallies, worked with the Coalition to Make EIC Work and campaigned.

Flores became a community navigator for NIJFON a year ago. Since then, she has educated her immigrant community members on “knowing your rights” and issues like the EIC bill. She said she joined because she wanted to make a difference.

Fred Tsao, a senior policy counsel for ICIRR, said the organization wanted to fight against the shared struggles among many immigrant communities in Illinois.

“This (was a) shared campaign to broaden the eligibility for the EIC, and we (recognized) the benefits particularly the anti-poverty effects of the federal EITC and state EIC,” Tsao said.

Some organizations advocating for the bill asked Illinois state Sen. Omar Aquino (D-Chicago) to help lead the effort to expand the EIC about three years ago. He said now was the time to expand the credit, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact residents’ financial solvency. 

In order to get the bill through the General Assembly, Aquino said he and the coalition of organizations spent extra time focusing on EIC’s reach and impact. 

“By educating some of my colleagues and having them realize how much of a benefit this was for their own neighbors, their own constituencies, certainly helped to get more folks on board,” Aquino said.  

Across the state, the law will help many low-income people who have not previously been included in relief programs, Tsao said. He said this assistance was particularly important during the pandemic, which exposed the economic disparities working immigrant families face.

But, according to Tsao, the most important aspect of the expansion is its permanence. 

Flores said the relief will have a great impact on her and her community. The relief will be a huge help not only for her family and small business, but also for many of her customers who will also qualify for EIC for the first time.

“The need isn’t going away, even when the pandemic does. So, the EIC is really important in that it’s a permanent measure,” Tsao said. “It will provide a more permanent mechanism for providing some economic cushion for these working immigrant families.” 

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Twitter: @shannonmtyler

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