Millions of taxpayers are missing out on EITC tax refunds
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Californians file most EITC claims, get most money
But biggest average tax credit check goes to Mississippi filers

Every year, the Internal Revenue Service makes a concerted effort to hand out more Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) money. The reason, says the tax agency, is that around 20 percent of eligible filers consistently fail to file for this refundable tax credit.

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But what about those who do claim the EITC?

The IRS says that nationwide last year, 27 million U.S. workers and their families got $67 billion thanks to this tax credit for lower- and middle-income workers.

Where EITC money goes: Not surprisingly, the most populated states account for the most EITC claims and actual dollars returned to eligible taxpayers.

Here are the top 10 states as far as actual EITC claims, along with the total money the taxpayers there received:

  1. California -- 3 million claims, $7.3 billion paid
  2. Texas -- 2.6 million claims, $7.1 billion paid
  3. Florida -- 2.1 million claims, $5.2 billion paid
  4. New York -- 1.7 million claims, $4.1 billion paid
  5. Georgia -- 1.1 million claims, $3 billion paid
  6. Illinois -- 994,000 claims, $2.5 billion paid
  7. Ohio -- 939,000 claims, $2.3 billion paid
  8. North Carolina -- 921,000 claims, $2.3 billion paid
  9. Pennsylvania -- 919,000 claims, $2.1 billion paid
  10. Michigan -- 788,000 claims, $2 billion paid

Overall, 20 states got more than 1 billion in EITC refunds in 2016. The other 10 states where taxpayer claims exceeded that dollar mark are Alabama, Arizona, Indiana, Louisiana, New Jersey, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, South Carolina and Virginia.

Biggest, smallest average checks: While it's always fun to talk about billions of dollars, the value of any tax break is how much of that enormous amount of money breaks out when you're talking individual, real people.

The overall national average EITC check in 2016 was $2,455.

Mississippi residents did much better than that. The Magnolia State led the EITC payout list with an average check of $2,917.

Vermont EITC claimants, on the other hand, had the smallest average check at $1,957.

So given all these figures, which one gets this week's By the Numbers honor? It's a tough call, but I'm going with the $2,917 that was dispensed to Mississippi EITC claimants. 

More EITC figures: If you don't live in one of the 22 states mentioned here, you can check out where your state landed on the 2016 EITC scale at the full IRS table showing last year's state-by-state EITC claims, total refunds per state and the average check amounts.

Want more data? The Brookings Institute has an incredibly dense EITC interactive database.

There you can display and download ZIP code-level tax return information for states, metro areas, counties, cities, and state legislative and congressional districts for tax years 2011 through 2013. 

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