Every year, I’m pleased to see that awareness of a South Carolina tax credit that helps people with high home insurance bills is increasing.

And every year around tax time, I write about the Excess Insurance Premium Tax Credit to help increase awareness, because it’s fair to assume that thousands of people who could benefit still don’t know it exists.

The credit will reduce the amount of money owed in South Carolina income tax, dollar for dollar, up to $1,250. If the cost of insuring your primary residence exceeds 5 percent of your federal adjusted gross income (from your federal tax return), then you qualify.

As tax rules go, that’s about as simple as it gets.

For people living near the coast — the land of soaring insurance bills — even those with relatively high incomes might qualify because coverage is so costly. Homeowners insurance and any additional policies for hurricanes (such as “wind pool” premiums) and flood insurance count when calculating the credit.

For example, a family with an adjusted gross income of $60,000 would qualify if the cost of insuring their home is greater than $3,000. If that family’s insurance cost $3,500, they would get a $500 reduction in the amount of income tax owed to South Carolina.

The tax credit is nonrefundable, which means it can reduce your state tax bill to zero, but you won’t get a check if the credit exceeds the amount you would otherwise owe. Instead, any unused portion of the credit can be carried over to future years, for up to five years.

That also means that if you have no South Carolina income tax liability — a common situation for retirees whose income is mostly untaxed by the state — you’ll get no benefit, unless you expect to owe in coming years and want to carry over the unused credit.

Last year, 3,090 South Carolina tax filers claimed the tax credit on their 2013 returns, receiving an average of $984.

That’s 690 more households claiming the tax credit than in 2012, and nearly six times the number that claimed it in 2008. The tax credit was created in 2007 as part of a package of state insurance reforms.

As awareness and insurance premiums continue to rise, I expect to see far more taxpayers taking advantage of the credit.

If you’re just learning about this tax credit, and realize you would have qualified in prior years, you can consider filing amended tax returns for up to three years. Note that filing amended state returns could mean you’ll have to file amended federal returns as well; for example, if you itemized deductions on your federal return and deducted state income taxes you paid.

The good news is, it’s easy to figure out what the tax credit is worth, so it’s easy to decide if filing amended returns would be worthwhile.

To claim the credit, South Carolina taxpayers filed Schedule TC-44 and tax form sc1040tc (tax credits).

Need some free help with your taxes? Don’t forget, there are plenty of volunteers waiting to lend a hand. Here are some of the ways to find free tax preparation assistance in the tri-county area:

To find Trident United Way tax prep help — locations, dates and times, and details — visit tuw.org/freetaxes or dial 211.

To find AARP Foundation Tax-Aide assistance, offered at many area libraries, call 888-AARP-NOW (888-227-7669) or visit AARP.org/taxaide.