For Immediate Release:
Thursday, January 23, 2020
Department of Consumer and Worker Protection Kicks Off the 2020 Tax Season With Continued Expansion of NYC Free Tax Prep
New Yorkers Earning $64,000 or Less Can File for Free with NYC Free Tax Prep at More Than 150 Sites Citywide
NEW YORK, NY – Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) Commissioner Lorelei Salas today kicked off the 2020 tax season with the launch of the Agency’s 18th annual tax season initiative and encouraged New Yorkers who earned $64,000 or less to file for free using NYC Free Tax Prep. Commissioner Salas also announced the Agency’s continued expansion of NYC Free Tax Prep with the addition of services in neighborhoods and languages previously underserved.
“Since 2014, we have helped New Yorkers file more than 700,000 returns for free and claim refund-boosting tax credits that can be pivotal in helping them pay bills, reduce debt, and save for their future,” said DCWP Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “I am excited to continue expanding NYC Free Tax Prep this year and help connect even more New Yorkers with our trusted and professional tax prep services to help ease the financial stress and frustration that is often experienced during tax season. I strongly encourage all eligible New Yorkers to use this service so that they can file their taxes completely free and keep every penny of their hard-earned refund.”
DCWP has doubled the number of community-based partners that are funded by the City to provide NYC Free Tax Prep services and will now have expanded service in Staten Island and new locations in South Brooklyn, as well as the addition of services in Hebrew, Korean, and Yiddish.
About 2020 NYC Free Tax Prep:
NYC Free Tax Prep services include more than 150 Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)/Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) and AARP Tax-Aide sites citywide. Sites across the city are now open with additional sites opening next week as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) begins to accept returns on January 27. New Yorkers can call 311 or visit nyc.gov/taxprep
and use DCWP’s interactive map
to search for the most convenient free tax site near them. A checklist
of what New Yorkers need to bring with them to file is available at nyc.gov/taxprep
For most sites, New Yorkers with an annual income of $64,000 or less with children - or $45,000 or less without children - can visit a tax site in the five boroughs. At the sites, returns can be prepared in-person by an IRS certified VITA/TCE volunteer preparer or dropped-off to be completed by the preparer. At the convenient drop-off sites, filers can drop off their tax documents and return later to pick up the completed return or receive it by email.
“I am proud to once again open up the People’s House as a site for free tax preparation services, in partnership with DCWP and Grow Brooklyn,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. “This is a vital resource for so many New Yorkers, including the assistance provided in financial counseling and expanded awareness of the underutilized Earned Income Tax Credit.”
“It’s infuriating that in 2020, it’s still so complicated and expensive to file your tax returns,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “For years now, the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection’s NYC Free Tax Prep initiative has gone above and beyond to make this process less painful for so many New Yorkers, and I thank them and their community partners for their efforts.”
“Filing taxes is one way that New Yorkers must all come together and do our part,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. “For so many of us, the annual tax refund is a financial blessing and this program empowers those families by giving them the tools they need to file their yearly taxes with ease. Thank you to the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection for being there for our middle- and lower-class families through yet another tax season.”
“The EITC is more than 44 years old and 2020 represents our fourteenth annual EITC Awareness Day campaign,” said Louis Morizio Territory Manager for Stakeholder Partnerships, Education and Communication for the Internal Revenue Service in New York City. “The IRS wants to capture the attention of those who are eligible for EITC and motivate them to find out if they qualify. At the same time, we want to encourage taxpayers to check for additional refundable tax credits to which they may be entitled and make sure they check to see if they qualify to receive them. In NYC, the EITC has a powerful impact on many families and the communities they live in.. We hope that taxpayers will be taking advantage of the free tax preparation services provided by the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites located in all five boroughs sponsored by our outstanding partners that are part of the City’s Free Tax Prep Coalition.”
“Ariva is excited to begin its 17th season of free income tax preparation for hardworking New Yorkers,” said Maribel Montilla, Tax Program Director Ariva, Inc. in the South Bronx. “This year, we will serve 11,500 filers at 13 sites around the Bronx, as well as at the Mexican Consulate in Manhattan. A great many of our clients are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit and the refund they receive is often the largest lump sum cash payment they receive all year. The EITC is invaluable to helping our tax clients save and plan for the future. If you work, even if you don’t know if you are eligible for the EITC, we urge you to come get your taxes prepared at Ariva or at one of the many other NYC Free Tax Prep sites around the city. These sites provide expert, professional tax services that are always completely free of charge. Come check us out. And if you would like to come volunteer with us this tax season, we would love to have you, just contact Ambernicole, our volunteer manager at email@example.com!”
“Restoration is honored to partner with DCWP as a tax preparation and NYC Financial Empowerment Center location,” said Tracey Capers, Executive Vice President of Programs/Organizational Development at Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation. “We look forward to this opportunity to provide this vital free service to New Yorkers, providing them a neighborhood alternative without the predatory practices of some fee-based tax preparers that offer an advance on the client’s tax return that includes hidden fees and interest. This is an important moment for us to reach new prospective customers and encourage them to find productive ways to use this one-time lump payment, and ways they can take steps to build financial health by getting banked, paying down debt or stashing away dollars for an emergency fund.”
“Offering free tax services to the communities we serve truly complements the BronxWorks mission. Our staff is committed to helping individuals and families improve their economic and social well-being,” said BronxWorks Executive Director Eileen Torres. “This year NYC Free Tax Prep will be available at four BronxWorks sites so we may expand our reach and help ensure that more of our Bronx neighbors are filing their taxes and exploring tax credit eligibility.”
“We have been providing financial education and counseling to North Bronx residents for over 35 years. This year we are continuing providing free tax services to help residents take advantage of tax credits and maximize their tax refund that could help them to pay for outstanding bills and get out of debt,” said Oscar Morillo, Executive Director of the Bronx Neighborhood Housing Services. “For this purpose, in the last tax season, we partnered with DCWP and Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner, and for this tax season also we are partnering with DCWP again.”
“Center for Family Life is thrilled to partner with the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection to provide free tax preparation services in Sunset Park,” Julia Jean-Francois, Co-Director at Center for Family Life. “NYC Free Tax Prep is a vital service for our neighborhood and will generate millions of dollars in tax refunds, providing vital support for community residents.”
“Now entering our fourth year, DCWP’s NYC Free Tax Prep program has allowed Chhaya to take our financial stability programs to a whole new level of impact,” Annetta Seecharan, Executive Director of Chhaya CDC. "We have served countless immigrant households and families, bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars in refunds to the historically underserved South Asian and Indo-Caribbean communities We will provide in-language services in two Queens locations: Jackson Heights, and Richmond Hill. Our tax-preparers provide services in Hindi, Punjabi, Bangla, Nepali and Spanish.”
“Grow Brooklyn is excited to offer free tax prep services at fifteen Brooklyn locations, two in the Lower East Side, and one in Jackson Heights, Queens,” Samira Rajan, Executive Director of Grow Brooklyn. “These services are not only vital because they are free of charge, but also because they allow individuals and families with low- to middle-incomes to take advantage of their full tax refund and earned income tax credits. We look forward to another successful season providing high quality service to our community.”
NYC Free Tax Prep Public Awareness Campaign:
This year, DCWP also launched a new multilingual public awareness campaign
that focuses on showing the number of households in NYC that are eligible to file at a free tax site. The campaign ads, with the support of Citi Community Development and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, are running in the city’s subway cars, stations, bus shelters, LinkNYC, as well as in print, on radio and online. DCWP is also conducting street marketing and extensive outreach, doing a targeted mailing to 200,000 EITC-eligible New Yorkers and, with the help of the City’s tax season partners, distributing 400,000 multilingual informational brochures.
NYC Free Tax Prep increases awareness about tax credits that put money back in the pockets of working New Yorkers and helps qualifying New Yorkers file their taxes. EITC is one of the largest poverty reduction programs in the U.S. and is a federal, state and New York City tax credit for qualifying families, non-custodial parents (NYS EITC only), and single individuals who work full time or part time or are self-employed. For working families in New York City, EITC claims can be worth as much as $8,852 when combined with state and City credits. Families with low incomes who are employed or underemployed and have child care costs for children up to age four could also be eligible for up to $1,733 with the NYC Child Care Tax Credit (NYC CCTC).
“We are excited to partner with DCWP to expand our tax preparation services to broader areas of eastern Queens, especially for low-income, limited English proficient community members who need language accessible services,” John Park, Min Kwon Executive Director. “When we started providing tax preparation services over a decade ago, it emerged organically as a response to community needs. Around tax season, a stream of limited English proficient community members, who primarily spoke Korean or Mandarin Chinese, would come to our Center seeking help navigating the tax process and interpreting documents because they didn't know where else to go. As an NYC Free Tax Prep tax site, we are happy to have the support and a referral network that lets people know that they can come here.”
“NMIC is excited to expand our NYC Free Tax Prep services as a first-time direct DCWP provider,” Maria Lizardo, Executive Director at NMIC. “These critical services not only help members of our community maximize their refunds by saving on preparation fees, but also allow us to connect them with a wide range of financial and other wrap around services to build their earning and savings power.”
“The NYC Free Tax Prep program is a vital support system to ensure that New Yorkers receive their full refund and tax credits,” Rev. Karen Jackson, Director of Recovery and Community Initiatives at Project Hospitality. “Our well-trained volunteers are members of our Staten Island community who speak the languages of the people who live here. It's special to see neighbors helping neighbors through this very worthwhile program.”
“Urban Upbound is excited about the upcoming 2020 tax season,” Bishop Mitchell Taylor, CEO of Urban Upbound. “Last year we were proud to partner with DCWP and be a part of a network of tax providers that served thousands of low-income New Yorkers with professional tax preparation services. Urban Upbound operates many sites across the city ready to serve New Yorkers this tax season.”
“The Earned Income Tax Credit and free tax preparation services are critical tools to help eligible workers strengthen their financial stability,” Gregory Schiefelbein, Citi Community Development NY Tri-State Market Director. “Through our collaboration with the City of New York to promote free, high-quality tax preparation and recruit certified volunteer tax preparers across the five boroughs, we are helping to expand access to this essential service and empower residents to make the most of their refunds.”
“A Volunteer Tax Preparer’s time is invaluable and puts real dollars back into the pockets of working families and residents,” NYC Chief Service Officer Anusha Venkataraman. “I want to encourage New Yorkers across the city to visit nyc.gov/VolunteerTaxPrep to learn how you can be trained and certified, and have a hand in creating a fairer and more just city for all New Yorkers this tax season.”
Information for Consumers:
Due to federal law, the PATH Act
, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is required to hold refunds until at least mid-February for filers who claim EITC or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC). Most refunds will then be issued in approximately 21 days from mid-February. As a result, paid preparers are marketing “express refund advances” or “refund transfers” that result in a smaller refund, or unforeseen fees or interest.
For more information about NYC Free Tax Prep, visit nyc.gov/taxprep
or call 311 and join the #FreeTaxPrep conversation on @NYCDCA’s social media channels.
Volunteer Preparer Recruitment
Member organizations in the NYC Free Tax Prep Coalition are actively recruiting volunteers to be NYC Free Tax Prep preparers. If you want to make a difference and help your neighbors claim more than $80,000 in refunds and tax preparation fee savings, you can become a volunteer preparer today with three easy steps: get trained, get certified, and start making a difference. For more information, call 311 or visit nyc.gov/VolunteerTaxPrep
Consumers using a paid preparer should ask the preparer for a Consumer Bill of Rights Regarding Tax Preparers
(also available in Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Korean, Polish, Russian, Spanish, and Urdu) and read it thoroughly before having their taxes prepared, and also get DCWP’s Tips Regarding Tax Preparers
. Also read DCWP’s Consumer Alert
about paid preparers. Consumers should also be on alert for preparers that overcharge, charge hidden fees, or file their return without permission.
The NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) protects and enhances the daily economic lives of New Yorkers to create thriving communities. DCWP licenses more than 75,000 businesses in more than 50 industries and enforces key consumer protection, licensing, and workplace laws that apply to countless more. By supporting businesses through equitable enforcement and access to resources and, by helping to resolve complaints, DCWP protects the marketplace from predatory practices and strives to create a culture of compliance. Through its community outreach and the work of its offices of Financial Empowerment and Labor Policy & Standards, DCWP empowers consumers and working families by providing the tools and resources they need to be educated consumers and to achieve financial health and work-life balance. DCWP also conducts research and advocates for public policy that furthers its work to support New York City’s communities. For more information about DCWP and its work, call 311 or visit DCWP at nyc.gov/dcwp or on its social media sites, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
Melissa Barosy / Jade Acosta
Department of Consumer and Worker Protection