FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, January 25, 2018
Abigail Lootens / Christine Gianakis
Department of Consumer Affairs
(212) 436-0042 firstname.lastname@example.org
Department of Consumer Affairs and Partners Kick Off the Tax Season with Continued Expansion of NYC Free Tax Prep
New Yorkers Earning $66,000 or Less Can File for Free at More Than 200 Sites Citywide or Online
NEW YORK, NY—Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Lorelei Salas today kicked off the tax season with the launch of the Agency’s 16th annual tax season campaign and encouraged New Yorkers who earned $66,000 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 previously underserved neighborhoods, increased promotion of self prep services, and a 12-hour tax preparation marathon event. The announcement was made the day before Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Awareness Day with free tax prep provider Moshulu Montefiore Community Center at Grant Houses Cornerstone in Harlem, one of the new sites opening for the 2018 tax season.
“Since 2015 we have helped New Yorkers file more than 425,000 returns for free and claim refund-boosting tax credits that can be pivotal in helping them pay bills, get out of debt and save for their future,” said DCA Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “This year, we are committed to helping connect even more New Yorkers with our trusted and professional free tax prep services because working New Yorkers deserve to get every penny of their hard-earned refund. I encourage all New Yorkers to come out to our free tax prep-a-thon event in February to file their taxes and take advantage of free financial counseling, benefits screenings, and other City resources and services.”
About 2018 NYC Free Tax Prep:
NYC Free Tax Prep services include more than 200 Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)/Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) and AARP Tax-Aide sites citywide, as well as online self-preparation at nyc.gov/taxprep
. Sites across the city began to open last week with additional sites opening next week as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) begins to accept returns on January 29. New Yorkers can call 311 or visit nyc.gov/taxprep
and use DCA’s interactive map to search for the most convenient free tax site, and now text “Taxes” to 42033 (message and data rates may apply) to find the nearest location and receive tax season updates and reminders. A checklist
of what is needed to file is available at nyc.gov/taxprep
“For many New Yorkers, filing for taxes can be a daunting, time-consuming, and resource-draining process,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “Over the years, NYC Free Tax Prep has helped countless New Yorkers navigate this process and this year’s expansion will ensure that traditionally underserved communities have the resources they need. I applaud Commissioner Salas and DCA for their continued work to educate and support New Yorkers.”
“It’s unfair and frankly maddening that in the 21st century, filing your tax return can still be complicated, expensive, or both for so many people – but it’s phenomenal that our Department of Consumer Affairs can make it easier for so many New Yorkers,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “I urge every New Yorker: find out if you qualify for free tax prep help and if you do, take advantage!”
“Tax season can be one of the most stressful times for people,” said NYC Council Member Rafael Espinal, Chair of the Committee on Consumer Affairs. “I commend the Department of Consumer Affairs and their partners for trying to make tax season a lot easier for low and middle income families by providing free tax prep and other supportive services. I urge all New Yorkers who are eligible to take advantage of this benefit so they can maximize their refund and put much needed money back into their household.”
“Congratulations to Commissioner Lorelei Salas and the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) on a successful kickoff of this year’s NYC Free Tax Prep to help thousands of hard-working families in our city prepare and file their tax returns free of charge,” said Rep. Adriano Espaillat (NY-13). “NYC Free Tax Prep increases awareness about tax credits that put money back in the pockets of working New Yorkers. Trained tax preparers assistant families and individuals with tax preparation, electronic filing, and online self-preparation. Volunteers will also be on hand to explain eligible tax benefits, deductions, and long-term savings. I encourage all eligible residents to sign-up for this vital service today at one of the locations throughout the city.”
“I am thrilled to join the Department of Consumer Affairs today to announce the launch of their 16th Annual Tax Season Campaign,” said State Senator Benjamin. “This program has helped countless New Yorkers file their taxes for free and made sure they got the best possible deal on their returns. This year, they have added additional services and locations, including a location in Harlem. Thank you to Commissioner Lorelai Salas, the dedicated tax assistance volunteers, and the community partners who make this campaign a possibility.
“For hard working New Yorkers and their families, the tax season can be a time of worry. However, many will rest assured that with NYC Free Tax Prep they can get their taxes prepared for free, and expect to receive their whole refund. I’d like to commend Commissioner Salas for her commitment to this program, which has served hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers since its inception, and look forward to the expanded services my constituents on the North Shore of Staten Island will be receiving this tax season,” said Assemblymember Matthew Titone, Chair of the Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection.
"Free tax preparation is a lifeline for many families in New York City,” said New York State Assembly Member O'Donnell. “This often confusing and frustrating process is out of reach for most lay people, including myself, without professional help. I'm proud that we can reduce the stress for many during the most stressful time of the year!"
“We encourage eligible filers to utilize IRS certified VITA/TCE volunteer preparers through the NYC Free Tax Prep program to claim all credits that may be available to them, including the Earned Income Tax Credit (“EITC”),” said IRS Spokesperson Patricia Russomagno. “Our community volunteers can help you get the maximum refund you’re due.”
“We’re pleased to again partner with New York City to help thousands of residents throughout the five boroughs navigate the filing process at no cost to claim all the credits and refunds they deserve,” said Nonie Manion, Acting Commissioner, NYS Department of Taxation and Finance. “Electronic tax preparation and filing offers a range of benefits, including fewer errors and faster refunds.”
The City’s free tax filing options:
- For most sites, New Yorkers with an annual income of $54,000 or less with children or $30,000 or less without children, can visit one of more than 200 free tax sites 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.
- New Yorkers earning less than $66,000 can file their taxes online for free at nyc.gov/taxprep. The City partners with Intuit Financial Freedom Foundation and MyFreeTaxes, powered by H&R Block and in partnership with United Way Worldwide, to offer these services.
“Ariva is excited to begin its 15th season of free income tax preparation for hardworking New Yorkers,” said Ambernicole Misserello, Volunteer Coordinator at Ariva, Inc. in the South Bronx. "This year, we will serve 12,000 filers at 10 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 the 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!"
“Chhaya is proud to partner with DCA in providing free tax preparation services to our immigrant communities, who often fall prey to predatory tax preparers, expensive refund anticipation loans, and a variety of quick-money scams,” said Annetta Seecharran, Chhaya CDC Executive Director.
“When working families are able to get their taxes done for free, the refunds and credits they receive lets them pay bills, keep the roof over their heads and put food on their tables,” said Margarette Purvis, President and CEO of Food Bank For New York City. “That’s why Food Bank For New York City is grateful to partner with the Department of Consumer Affairs as part of the NYC Free Tax Prep Program, and proud that our tax program has helped low-income New Yorkers secure more than $1 billion in tax refunds and credits since 2002. Free tax preparation options not only ensure New Yorkers receive the refunds and credits to which they are entitled in order to help them make ends meet, they put dollars back into communities, supporting our city’s economy.”
“Grow Brooklyn is excited to offer free tax prep services at nine Brooklyn locations and one in the Lower East Side,” said Samira Rajan, CEO 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 tax credits. We look forward providing high quality service to our community.”
“MMCC is thrilled to be able to offer the NYC Free Tax Prep again this year it has proven to be an effective way for MMCC to provide a necessary and valuable service to our Bronx and Manhattan communities,” said Rita Santelia, CEO of Mosholu Montefiore Community Center. “This service provides families with low-incomes with an efficient and cost-free way to complete their taxes on time, maximize their refunds, and eliminate high fees that are charged by “pop up” tax preparers.”
“NYC Free Tax Prep is a vital service in low income and public housing communities where families depend on their tax refunds to cover living expenses, pay debts, and establish savings,” said Founder and CEO of Urban Upbound Bishop Mitchell Taylor. “In our 14th year, we are excited to be part of the initiative that moves New Yorkers towards financial stability.”
This year the City’s network of free tax preparation providers is opening 20 new sites, with new locations in every borough, in an effort to better serve New Yorkers in communities identified as being in need of free tax preparation services and likely eligible for tax credits. Among the neighborhoods receiving new sites are Eastchester and Claremont in the Bronx; Downtown Brooklyn, Sunset Park and East New York in Brooklyn; Harlem in Manhattan, Elmhurst and Corona in Queens, and the North Shore of Staten Island. Many of these sites are opening in collaboration with other City agencies, including NYC Health + Hospitals and the Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) through their Cornerstone program sites. DCA is also collaborating with the city’s library systems and other City agencies to make it easier for library patrons and other computer lab users to access the online NYC Free Tax Prep’s self-prep service.
“Twenty DYCD-funded Cornerstone locations are proud hosts this tax season for the NYC Free Tax Prep program,” said DYCD Commissioner Bill Chong. “This no-cost service helps New York City taxpayers—particularly those who are low-income or seniors—navigate the often complicated tax preparation process, and gives filers a better chance of submitting accurate returns and getting every dollar they have coming to them.”
“Our hospitals and health centers are integral to community health and wellness,” said Dr. Mitchell Katz, president and chief executive officer of NYC Health + Hospitals. “We understand the role they play in making social services accessible and convenient for our patients and communities we serve. Our partnership with the Department of Consumer Affairs to offer free tax preparation services is another way NYC Health + Hospitals is easing the burden on New Yorkers.”
“Tax credits like the Federal and State Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Care Tax Credit are important tools in the fight against poverty and income inequality,” said DSS Commissioner Steven Banks. “NYC Free Tax Prep is a chance to get help filing your taxes and see if you qualify for these and other important credits and deductions—all for free.”
“As we officially kick off tax season, we are proud to team up with the Department of Consumer Affairs and other City agencies to help NYCHA residents get their tax returns,” said NYCHA Chair and CEO, Shola Olatoye. “The NYC Free Tax Prep Services will assist NYCHA residents and other low income New Yorkers to file their taxes in a professional setting on time and free of charge.”
To help with the expansion of services, DCA and NYC Service, with the collaboration and support of Citi Community Development, and in partnership with the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, launched a citywide campaign this fall to increase recruitment for IRS certified VITA/TCE volunteer preparers. This campaign was deployed in fall 2017 and allowed NYC Free Tax Prep providers to reach new audiences of potential volunteers. Additionally, Citigroup employees have committed to approximately 500 hours of volunteer service throughout the city this the tax season.
“It is NYC Service’s vision to inspire and empower all New Yorkers to serve their City and each other, so we are proud to partner with DCA and Citi Community Development to help engage more New Yorkers as volunteer tax preparers,” said NYC Chief Service Officer Paula Gavin. “More volunteers means more New Yorkers being served across the City this tax season.”
On February 10, 2018 DCA, in collaboration with the Department of Education’s network of community schools, will host the NYC Free Tax Prep-a-Thon, a 12-hour tax filing marathon and resource fair at schools in all five boroughs. Tax preparers will be on site from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. help New Yorkers file their taxes for free. During the event, New Yorkers can take advantage of free financial counseling with a professional, financial counselor from the NYC Financial Emporment Centers. Counselors can help tackle debt, save for the future, open a bank account, improve credit, and much more. Free screening for local, state, and federal health and human service benefits will also be available to help individuals find out if they are eligible. This family friendly event will offer fun activities for kids and a resource fair for individuals to learn more about the many City resources available to all New Yorkers. Those looking to learn more about Tax Prep-a-Thon can visit DCA’s event calendar
to find a location.
History of NYC Free Tax Prep:
These efforts build on the expansion of NYC Free Tax Prep that began in 2015 as part of de Blasio Administration’s commitment to delivering essential services to New Yorkers with low and moderate incomes and helping them improve their financial stability. Since then, the City, with support from Citi Community Development, has invested directly in the partners and expanded its public awareness campaign. Over the past three years since the expansion of the program, more than 425,000 New Yorkers have filed with NYC Free Tax Prep and received roughly half a billion dollars in tax preparation fee savings and refunds.
“More than half of all households in New York City—57.5 percent—have inadequate emergency savings,” said Eileen Auld, Citi Community Development NY Tri-State Market Director. “For many of these families, especially those living paycheck to paycheck, the Earned Income Tax Credit provides an essential financial cushion. Through our collaboration with New York City on the NYC Free Tax Prep campaign, more New Yorkers living on lower incomes will have convenient access to free, high-quality tax preparation services, enabling them to get the most out of their refund.”
“With the start of the NYC Free Tax Prep season, the Mayor’s Fund is pleased to once again help foster this public private partnership supporting individuals and families in need file their taxes at no cost,” said Darren Bloch, the Executive Director of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. “This year, with 20 new tax preparation sites and increased volunteer support, these services will be even more accessible for thousands of families. The Mayor’s Fund applauds and thanks the Office of Financial Empowerment on the success of this program and Citi Community Development for their continued support of this important work.”
NYC Free Tax Prep Campaign:
The NYC Free Tax Prep multilingual public awareness campaign
recognizes the anxiety that many people feel when preparing their taxes and also stresses the savings in filing for free, claiming important tax credits, and getting your full refund. The campaign ads are now running in the city’s subway cars, stations, bus shelters, telephone kiosks, the Staten Island Ferry, as well as in print, on radio and online. DCA is also conducting street marketing and extensive outreach, doing a targeted mailing to approximately one million EITC-eligible New Yorkers and, with the help of the City’s tax season partners, distributing 750,000 informational brochures in multiple languages.
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 online for free. EITC, one of the largest poverty reduction programs in the U.S., is a federal, state and New York City tax credit for qualifying families, non-custodial parents (NYS EITC only), and singles who work full time or part time or are self-employed. For working families in New York City, federal EITC claims average $2,411 and can be worth as much as as $8,529 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 $2,310 with the NYC CCTC. Combined, these credits can total more than $10,000.
Information for Consumers:
DCA would like to alert New Yorkers that due to federal law, the PATH Act
, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is required to hold refunds until February 15, 2018 for filers who claim EITC or the Additional Children Tax Credit (ACTC). Most refunds will then be issued in approximately 21 days from mid-February, which is almost three times as long as previous years. As a result, paid preparers are marketing “express refund advances” or “refund transfers” that result in a smaller refund, or unforeseen fees or interest. Consumers using a paid preparer should ask the preparer for a Consumers’ Bill of Rights Regarding Tax Preparers
(also available in Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian and Spanish) and read it thoroughly before having their taxes prepared, and also get DCA’s Tips Regarding Tax Preparers
For more information about NYC Free Tax Prep, visit nyc.gov/taxprep
or call 311. You can also text “Taxes” to 42033 (message and data rates may apply) to find the nearest location and receive tax season updates and reminders and join the #FreeTaxPrep conversation on @NYCDCA’s social media channels.
The NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) protects and enhances the daily economic lives of New Yorkers to create thriving communities. DCA licenses more than 81,000 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, DCA 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, DCA 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. DCA also conducts research and advocates for public policy that furthers its work to support New York City’s communities. For more information about DCA and its work, call 311 or visit DCA at nyc.gov/dca or on its social media sites, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.