JACKSON, Mich., Feb. 6, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- During February, which Governor Snyder has designated Keep Michigan Warm Month, Consumers Energy is alerting qualifying Michigan residents that help with their heating bills may be available through a Michigan Home Heating Credit as well as a federal Earned Income Credit. Last year, more than 402,000 Michigan residents received a combined total of $58 million in aid through the Home Heating Credit program, which is funded by the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Last year's average credit was $144. The Home Heating Credit can be used for all types of primary heating fuel, including natural gas, propane and purchased firewood. Renters may also qualify for the credit. You do not need to file a state tax return to apply. Though the deadline to file is Sept. 30, 2013, applicants are encouraged to file early. "Tax season is an ideal time to file since free preparation assistance is available throughout much of the state," said Whitney Skeans, Consumers Energy's customer assistance coordinator. "For help locating the free tax site nearest you, you can simply dial 2-1-1, the health and human service equivalent of 9-1-1 spearheaded by the United Way." Home Heating Credit forms (MI-1040CR-7) are available at the following locations: most public libraries, Secretary of State branch offices, Department of Human Services branch offices, or linked from Consumers Energy's "Energy Answers" section on its website: www.consumersenergy.com/energyanswers. By calling Consumers Energy at 1-800-477-5050, its customer service representatives can quickly and conveniently provide you with last year's total heat cost (Line 11). This information can also be found on your December, January, and February statements. The federal Earned Income Credit is another refundable federal income tax credit available to qualifying low-income taxpayers. It must be filed during tax season. For income guidelines, contact your employer, call the Internal Revenue Service at (800) 829-3676, or visit www.irs.gov. The Michigan Department of Treasury can answer questions about both forms; information is available by calling (517) 636-4486. Downloadable forms and booklets can be found at: www.michigan.gov/taxes. Additionally, Consumers Energy is hosting Accounting Aid Society IRS-certified volunteers to assist southeast Michigan residents with free tax preparation each Saturday from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM at two of the utility's wheelchair-accessible locations: at the Clinton Township service center, 35350 Kelly Road, until April 13 by appointment only (586-265-5697); and at the Pontiac service center, 1030 Featherstone Road, until March 30 on a first come first served basis. Other locations for free tax filing assistance through the Accounting Aid Society can be found by calling 866-673-0873, or statewide through the Michigan VITA site at: http://www.michiganeic.org/freetaxprep Consumers Energy, the principal subsidiary of CMS Energy, provides natural gas and electricity to 6.8 million of the state's nearly 10 million residents in all 68 Lower Peninsula counties.