FAQs about NYC Free Tax Prep
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About the Services
Is “free” really free?
Yes! You will not be charged for any part of completing your return, including e-filing and direct deposit.
Do you offer remote services?
Yes. NYC Free Tax Prep offers both in-person and remote services, including:
- Virtual Tax Prep is a safe and reliable online tax prep service. An IRS certified Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)/Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) volunteer preparer will help you file your 2020 tax return during a 60-90 minute virtual call; use a secure digital system to manage your tax documents; and answer your tax questions.
- Self-Prep with Help (or Assisted Self-Prep) is a safe and reliable online tax prep service. Do your own taxes with easy-to-use tax filing software but contact a volunteer preparer for help when needed.
- Drop-off Service locations are limited this year, we encourage filers with internet access to consider online service options—Virtual Tax Prep and Self-Prep. At an NYC Free Tax Prep site for drop-off service, you can drop off your tax documents and pick up the completed return later. Filers must follow New York State health guidelines, including wearing a mask and practicing social distancing appropriately during visit.
- In-Person Tax Prep locations are limited this year, we encourage filers with internet access to consider online service options—Virtual Tax Prep and Self-Prep. At an NYC Free Tax Prep site for in-person tax prep, knowledgeable IRS certified VITA/TCE volunteer preparers will sit down with you to complete an accurate tax return. Sessions take a minimum of 30 minutes. Filers must follow New York State health guidelines, including wearing a mask and social distancing appropriately during visit.
What’s the difference between free tax prep and paid preparers?
Fees. Paid tax preparers can cost you hundreds of dollars in fees that take away from your refund. At times these fees can be confusing with paid tax preparers advertising no out-of-pocket cost but later claiming a portion of your refund. This is money that you’ve earned, but are giving away.
How much can I save with NYC Free Tax Prep?
It depends. On average, tax preparation fees are about $150 to $250 in New York. That’s about the same as two monthly MetroCards, three months of cell phone service, or five boxes of diapers.
Who can use NYC Free Tax Prep?
Anyone who lives or works in New York City can use an NYC Free Tax Prep site. Some sites have income limits and other eligibility requirements. In general, individuals must have earned $48,000 or less and families with dependents must have earned $68,000 or less in 2020 to file in person at an NYC Free Tax Prep site. Learn more at nyc.gov/taxprep
. If you live outside of NYC, visit the IRS website at irs.gov
to find an IRS VITA/TCE site near you.
What if I need more time to file?
Both the IRS and the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance provide the option to apply for tax filing extensions.
To learn more about how to apply for a tax filing extension with the IRS, visit irs.gov/extension
To learn more about how to apply for a tax filing extension with New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, visit tax.ny.gov/pit/file/ext.htm
Please note, applying for a filing extension may not grant an extension of time to pay taxes owed. Penalties may apply for paying taxes after a payment deadline.
About the Preparers
Will my return be done correctly?
Your IRS certified VITA/TCE volunteer preparer will use software to ask you the right questions to ensure that your return is completed accurately. A second preparer double-checks every return to make sure that nothing is missed and you get the full refund you deserve. But, the first step to an accurate return is bringing all of your documents and records
to your appointment.
Who are IRS certified VITA/TCE volunteer preparers?
IRS certified VITA/TCE volunteer preparers are New Yorkers like you who go through training and testing to be able to complete certain tax forms and schedules. They understand taxes and are up-to-date on recent tax law changes. They know how to make sure that you get every credit and deduction available to you, like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and NYC Child Care Tax Credit (NYC CCTC).
About the Sites
What kind of tax returns CANNOT be prepared at an NYC Free Tax Prep site?
In general, volunteer preparers at NYC Free Tax Prep sites CAN prepare most basic state and federal income tax returns, including itemized deductions, simple self-employment, amended returns, and prior-year returns.
Volunteer preparers CANNOT prepare more complex returns, which include:
- Business income with more than $25,000 in expenses
- Business income with net losses
- Business income with deductions for inventory, depreciation, or employees
If you are unsure, please call the site before making an appointment to confirm they can help you complete your return.
What can I expect at an NYC Free Tax Prep site?
In general, your time at the site will begin with you answering an intake form to help your preparer complete your tax return accurately. Then, your preparer will use software, your intake form, and your documents
to fill out the necessary forms and schedules. They will also ask you questions to make sure they have the correct information. After your return is completed, a second preparer will review the return to make sure it’s error-free. During busy times, you may have a long wait for this review. After your return is reviewed, it will be printed for you to sign and to keep for your records. At this time, you have a final opportunity to ask questions before signing authorization for the preparer to e-file your return for you. After your return is e-filed, it will be processed by the IRS computers. If there are any errors when the file is processed – such as a misspelled name – site management will contact you to resolve the error and then re-file the return.
If I file in-person, what health and safety protocols are being implemented
Filers and volunteer preparers must follow New York State health guidelines, including wearing a mask and practicing social distancing appropriately during each visit. Sites In addition, organizations may also conduct health screenings and take additional precautions such as requiring appointments, using drop-off service, and other public health procedures as outlined by New York State health guidance. We strongly encourage filers to use our virtual services to limit in-person interactions.
Is help available in languages other than English?
Yes. Many NYC Free Tax Prep sites are able to assist clients in other languages. Visit the Site Finder page
and search by language to find a site where services are provided in your language.
Can I make an appointment?
Some sites take appointments, and others are on a walk-in basis only. Please see site information on the map to see if appointments are available.
If you have an appointment at a site, please be on time. If you are unable to make your appointment, contact the site to let them know as early as possible. Sites that take appointments can fill up quickly and are often fully booked. If you are late for an appointment, the site may not be able to take you when you arrive and may not be able to schedule an alternate time for you.
Walk-in sites operate on a first-come, first-served basis and will have a waiting list if all the preparers are busy with other taxpayers. Wait times at walk-in sites can be lengthy, especially throughout the month of February and on weekends.
How do I bring an NYC Free Tax Prep site to my neighborhood?
Please email us at NYCTaxInitiative@dca.nyc.gov
and we’ll get back to you about hosting a site in your community.
I forgot to file or need to fix a return from a previous tax year. Can you help me?
Yes. Some NYC Free Tax Prep sites can help you complete your return for the 2019 tax year or correct a return for the 2019 tax year. They may also be able to help with additional years. Use our map to find a site
. For tax years prior to 2018, please call the site to confirm.
Help with ITINs
Can NYC Free Tax Prep help me apply for or renew an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)?
Some NYC Free Tax Prep sites participate in the IRS Certified Acceptance Agent program and can help you complete your ITIN application or renewal. Use our map to find a site
What are my options for receiving my refund, and how soon can I expect it?
You can either have your refund direct deposited into a bank account or have it mailed to you as a check. Direct deposits typically arrive in 10-14 days while paper checks take 3-4 weeks. For direct deposit, you must bring your routing number and account number to the tax site (typically, as a blank check). Please note: If you claim the Earned Income Tax Credit, there could be a delay in receiving refunds until the first week of March 2021. To check the status of your federal refund, visit irs.gov/refunds
or download the IRS2Go Mobile App
What is the EITC refund delay?
Due to the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act passed in 2015, the IRS must hold refunds for filers who claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the refundable portion of the Child Tax Credit (ACTC) until at least February 15 each year. For the 2021 tax season, refunds could be delayed until the first week of March 2021. This law requires the IRS to hold the entire refund – even the part not coming from the EITC or ACTC. Visit the IRS website at irs.gov
to learn more.
Help After Filing
What if I need help after I file?
No matter how you file, NYC Free Tax Prep preparers answer questions all year round. If you have a question about your return or receive a letter from the IRS or the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, NYC Free Tax Prep preparers can help. They will explain the letter and let you know your options to get the issue resolved. This service is completely free.
What if I want to use a paid preparer? What should I look out for?
Make sure you know your rights
. Ask for an estimate before they begin, read the fine print for any “advances” or “checks,” and double-check your return before you file.