Qualifying New Yorkers Should Take Advantage of the EITC with Only One Week until Tax Day

New York – City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, Council Member Eric Gioia, and Bishop Mitchell Taylor today reminded New Yorkers to take advantage of the City’s free and low-cost tax preparation sites with just one week left until April 15th. The City’s free tax preparation sites ensure that low-income New Yorkers take full advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit, a tax benefit they are entitled to receive. Speaker Quinn was joined by Aine Duggan, Vice President of Research, Policy and Education for the Food Bank for New York City and Marilyn Diaz, local resident who has used the East River Development Alliance’s tax prep site.

The Earned Income Tax Credit is a program that provides a credit for low-income working families from federal, State and City tax dollars. The collective refund depends on an individual’s or family’s income, but working families earning less than $42,000 a year may be eligible for up to $6,500 as a result of the credit. Some non-profits provide New Yorkers with free or low-cost tax preparation services to ensure that they are able to take advantage of the maximum deserved credit without the risk of being fleeced by a private company. The Food Bank For New York City, which coordinates the nation’s largest civilian volunteer income tax preparation program, operates 14 such sites throughout the city, returning over $100 million to more than 50,000 low-income New Yorkers last year. One of those sites, at the East River Development Alliance (ERDA) in Long Island City, for example, has filed 1,500 tax returns as of March 31st and approximately $4 million has been returned to low-income filers in their community.

“With one week until tax day and as our City and nation is facing an unprecedented financial crisis, I strongly encourage all New Yorkers who think they may qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit to visit one of the free or low-cost tax preparation sites offered throughout the five boroughs,” said Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “For families struggling to make ends meet in these difficult times, the Earned Income Tax Credit can be a lifeline for low income New Yorkers.”

In addition to tax preparation services, these sites often offer so much more to the communities they serve. Many sites offer benefit screening programs, allowing clients to be screened for Food Stamps and health insurance programs like Medicaid, Medicare, Child Health Plus and Family Health Plus. Some offer additional services, like the opportunity to open a bank account and arrange for direct depositing of tax refunds. In addition to benefits screening, ERDA for example offers personal financial coaching services, money management training, and job training and placement assistance, and even plans to transform their tax preparation site into a Credit Union by fall 2009 to serve their population of clients.

“In tough economic times, we need to make sure that all New Yorkers get the money they deserve,” said Councilman Gioia. “Around 250,000 New Yorkers are missing out on thousands in EITC benefits simply because they don’t know they are entitled to them. More New Yorkers than ever qualify for the EITC this year – with just one week left, I urge everyone to check to see if they qualify for the benefit.”

“We are in the final days of our free tax preparation initiative and it is vitally important that all New Yorkers who qualify take advantage of this crucial service,” said Bishop Mitchell Taylor, President & CEO of the East River Development Alliance. “Over 1,500 people have walked through these doors and had their taxes prepared for free, and as a result almost $4 Million has been returned to low-income New Yorkers at a time when they need it the most. Hundreds of filers have also been screened for income supports such as food stamps and health insurance, and many have taken advantage of our other free services including, one-on-one financial coaching and job placement assistance. Getting $4 Million dollars back in the hands of the neediest New Yorkers is a natural stimulus.”

“If you think you might be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit, I urge you to take advantage of the free tax prep offered by ERDA or call the IRS directly for assistance. It’s your money –don’t leave it sitting in an IRS account,” said Representative Carolyn Maloney. “I thank Speaker Quinn, Councilman Gioia, and Bishop Taylor for their continued work to make sure that low-income New Yorkers get the benefits they deserve.”

Áine Duggan, Vice President of Research, Policy and Education for the Food Bank For New York City, encouraged all New York City taxpayer to take advantage of this free tax preparation options. “The Earned Income Tax Credit and our free tax assistance program are bright spots in this dark economy,” said Ms. Duggan. “By providing much-needed cash to those individuals and families who are working hard and still struggling to make ends meet, the stimulus effect is immediate and local. And in the midst of layoffs and record unemployment, the Food Bank is providing hundreds of volunteers with marketable job skills, as every trained volunteer becomes an IRS-certified tax preparer.”

Free and low-cost tax preparation sites are set up throughout the five boroughs. To find out the location of a free or low-cost tax preparation site near you, call 311 or visit http://www.nyc.gov/html/ofe/html/poverty/taxassistance.shtml