New York, NY—Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) First Deputy Commissioner Alba Pico announced the expansion of its initiative supporting free tax preparation in New York City through the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program to include partnerships with eight employers to make tax preparation more convenient for their employees by providing it at work. The employer-based VITA program, or NYC Free Tax Prep at Work, is the first program in the country to allow employees at partner organizations who earned $54,000 or less to file for free at work—at no cost to the employer—by using a convenient, drop-off service that takes just 20 minutes. As part of VITA Awareness Day 2016 (#VITAWorks), DCA highlights this innovative and convenient way to deliver VITA services.
“Last year, the City helped New Yorkers file more than 150,000 returns for free but there are many more eligible New Yorkers who are still paying to file their taxes,” said DCA First Deputy Commissioner Pico. “With NYC Free Tax Prep at Work, we aim to connect even more working New Yorkers to free tax prep so they can keep every penny of their refund. NYC Free Tax Prep at Work will play a critical role in increasing access to income support resources and improving job quality, a key recommendation from the City’s Career Pathways vision.”
“The NYC Free Tax Prep at Work will provide free basic income tax return preparation to qualified individuals in local communities,” said Louis Morizio, Territory Manager, Stakeholder Partnerships, Education & Communication (SPEC) at the IRS. “IRS-certified VITA/TCE volunteers can inform taxpayers about special tax credits for which they may qualify, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Credit for the Elderly and provide this service at the most convenient location—where people work. VITA programs generally help people whose incomes are $54,000 or less to prepare their federal and state income tax returns and provide free electronic filing. We encourage all people who qualify to use this important service.”
“The NYC Free Tax Prep at Work initiative advances the City’s vision of Career Pathways by improving job quality for working New Yorkers,” said Chris Neale, Director of the Workforce Development Board at the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development. “By partnering with employers to offer workers free tax preparation in the workplace, DCA OFE makes it easier for more New Yorkers to access financial empowerment resources that save them time and money.”
“I commend the Department of Consumer Affairs for continuing to come up with creative strategies to help low income New Yorkers file their taxes for free. Through the NYC Free Tax Prep at Work initiative, eligible employees will be saving both time and money when getting their taxes prepared at the workplace through a partnership with the VITA program. I’m sure that this will be an extremely successful venture and hope that it will be expanded in the future to include additional employers,” stated Council Member Rafael L. Espinal, Jr., the Chair of the Council's Consumer Affairs Committee.
NYC Free Tax Prep at Work is a program of DCA’s Office of Financial Empowerment and was made possible with support from Citi Community Development in partnership with the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City and was a key recommendation of last year’s Designing for Financial Empowerment (DFE) initiative. The DFE initiative, a collaboration between DCA , Citi Community Development, New York City Center for Economic Opportunity, the Parsons Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability Lab, Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City and Food Bank For New York City, focuses on building more accessible and effective public services to meet the needs of financially-vulnerable New Yorkers. The NYC Free Tax Prep at Work program is the first of several new service concepts developed by the DFE initiative, which uses a participatory approach known as “service design” that directly involves NYC residents at every step of the design process.
“This new program addresses several of the challenges facing both residents and the free tax prep sites,” said Bob Annibale, Global Director of Citi Community Development and Inclusive Finance. “The City of New York is enabling more people to benefit from tax credits like the EITC without having to take a day off from work, while at the same time relieving some of the demand on the overwhelmed VITA sites.”
“We’re proud that the VITA Initiative is now expanding its efforts to make tax preparation convenient for more New Yorkers. This initiative shows how partnerships between the Mayor’s Fund, our City agencies and the private sector offer the unique opportunity to first pilot new ways to better serve New Yorkers and then bring those programs to scale to create widespread, long-term change,” said Darren Bloch, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. “We look forward to continuing to work with Citi Community Development, DCA and our other Designing for Financial Empowerment initiative partners to make our city’s financial empowerment services more effective and more accessible for all.”
“This innovation will make this important public service more convenient and accessible for New Yorkers with busy work schedules, and gradually expand VITA awareness and capacity.” said Parsons DESIS Lab Director Eduardo Staszowski. “This is a simple but effective idea co-designed directly with clients and tax preparers after uncovering valuable insights about the free tax preparation services and identifying opportunities to make them more effective.”
DCA OFE provides participating employers with outreach materials; Food Bank For New York City provides staffing for several days at each business; and the employer provides space during the tax season. NYC Free Tax Prep at Work is a convenient drop-off service—employees just need to drop off their tax documents during the scheduled times or an appointment and a trained staff member will collect basic information—a process that takes just 20 minutes. An IRS-certified VITA/TCE volunteer preparer then prepares the federal and New York State tax returns off-site and the employee is contacted within two days when the return is complete and ready for either e-filing or pickup. The process is safe and confidential.
“Every year, hundreds of millions of federal dollars that belong in New Yorker’s wallets are left on the table when available federal tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) go unclaimed,” said Margarette Purvis, President and CEO of Food Bank For New York City. “NYC Free Tax Prep at Work is one way to make sure those dollars end up in the right place – in the homes of the hardworking New Yorkers who earned them. One out of every five adults in a food pantry or soup kitchen line is a working person whose earnings don’t stretch far enough. As a member of the Designing for Financial Empowerment Initiative, Food Bank For New York City is proud to partner with DCA to make free tax preparation services easy to access and to improve the food and financial security of low-wage New Yorkers across our city.”
This year, DCA has partnered with eight employers, including Aurify Brands (Five Guys, Little Beet and Melt Shop), Greene Grape Provisions, Macy’s, Managed by Q and Mrs. G’s Services to offer NYC Free Tax Preparation at Work to their employees. DCA worked with the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development and Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners to identify partner employers. The program started in February and will continue throughout the tax season.
“As one of New York City’s leading providers of financial empowerment services, Neighborhood Trust is proud to join with the Department of Consumer Affairs in this effort to offer the NYC Free Tax Prep at Work program,” said Justine Zinkin, CEO at Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners. It has been exciting to work with DCA and with employers so that more workers can file their taxes in a convenient, low-stress environment.
“We believe the NYC Free Tax Prep at Work program has been a great benefit for our employees,” said Michael Glisci, Benefits Coordinator at Aurify Brands. “The program was simple to coordinate and our employees had shown a good deal of interest in the free tax preparation it provided. We are happy to have partnered with Neighborhood Trust to implement this program at Aurify, but most importantly we’re certain our employees are too. We look forward to continuing this partnership in the coming years.”
“We were thrilled to have a resource for free tax preparation to offer our employees,” said Amy Bennett, Owner of The Greene Grape. “We have just about 100 employees on staff, and many of them qualified for this free service. The representatives from DCA were kind, positive and very helpful. Best of all they came to us, which made it easy for our employees to fit filing their taxes into their daily schedules. It doesn't get much easier than that. We are grateful that services like NYC Free Tax Prep at Work exist and will look forward to their help again next year!"
“At Q, we’re focused on providing best-in-class benefits that support the economic and professional development of our team. We’re thrilled to participate in this free and convenient program for eligible Operators. We know how important it is to help them make every dollar count,” said Anthony Fears, Director, People Operations at Managed by Q.
About the City’s Annual Tax Credit Campaign
The City’s Annual Tax Credit Campaign increases awareness about tax credits that put money back in the pockets of working New Yorkers, and helps qualifying New Yorkers file their taxes for free. In 2015, DCA launched an expanded public awareness and education campaign to inform New Yorkers of the City’s free tax preparation options and important tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the NYC Child Care Tax Credit (NYC CCTC). This resulted in an estimated 50 percent increase in New Yorkers who used the City’s free tax preparation services. The campaign successfully returned more than $250 million in tax refunds and fee savings to New Yorkers with low incomes. This year, with a return investment of more than $3 million in public, as well as private funding from Citi Community Development, the City’s 14th Annual Tax Credit Campaign directly supports its community-based tax partners to provide free tax preparation services at more than 200 sites around the city, as well as online, and promotes the services to eligible New Yorkers. For more information, visit nyc.gov/taxprep.
The Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) licenses, inspects, and educates businesses, assists and informs consumers, mediates complaints, and offers free financial counseling and safe banking products. DCA enforces the Consumer Protection Law, the Paid Sick Leave Law and other related business laws throughout New York City and licenses nearly 80,000 businesses in 55 different industries. For more information, call 311 or visit DCA online at nyc.gov/consumers or on its social media sites, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.