In 2008, New Yorkers received an average refund of $2,700 from Earned Income Tax Credit
New York, March, 11, 2010 – With one month left to file taxes, City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer today encouraged New Yorkers to use the City’s free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites and potentially receive thousands back in refunds. The Speaker and Council Member were joined by East River Development Alliance (ERDA) President & CEO Bishop Mitchell Taylor and Food Bank For New York City Vice President Carlos Rodriguez.
At a time of unprecedented economic pressure and double-digit unemployment, free VITA sites, including Food-Bank operated 14 sites citywide operated by the Food Bank, enable qualified working families and individuals to take advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) benefit. Typically, any family with children who have a 2009 income of less than $48,000 and single filers making less than $18,000 qualify for the EITC. These families and single filers could receive a tax return of up to $7,637.
However, at least 25 percent of those eligible for the benefit don’t claim the credit in their tax filings simply because they are unaware that they are eligible. At the City’s VITA sites, volunteers ensure that filers are able to take advantage of the maximum deserved credit, without the risk of being fleeced by a private company. Volunteers at the City’s VITA sites will also help City residents file for the Child Care Tax Credit (CCTC).
“As our City pulls itself through the recession, it’s vital for all New Yorkers to know that these free services are available throughout the five boroughs,” said Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “To think, a tax return could be as much as two-month’s worth of income — that alone could be the lifeline that a family needs to make sure they have enough food on the table or are still able to send their children to college that year.”
The Food Bank for New York City operates 14 VITA sites throughout the five boroughs. Today, the IRS recognizes the Food Bank For New York City as the largest coordinator of civilian tax assistance in the country. Since the program’s launch in 2002, it has served 241,200 filers and working New Yorkers have received $476.5 million in tax refunds. Last year alone, the program refunded nearly $64 million to low-income working New Yorkers and prepared more than 35,000 tax returns. .
“I commend Bishop Taylor and the East River Development Alliance for their great work helping residents of public housing neighborhoods in Long Island City file their tax returns,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer. “This is an example of a great institution that is working for our residents. Their free tax form preparation service helped residents get a total of $1.6 million back, $1.1 million of which came from earned income tax credits. This is truly amazing work.”
“Tax season is much like budget season for the City and State – it can lead to much frustration and little payback,” said Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. “Fortunately, this free tax prep service reverses that trend for New Yorkers, making the process less daunting and potentially more profitable.”
“Potentially, scores of New York City residents could be missing out on thousands of dollars in tax refunds — money that low-income working people can use to pay bills and purchase food for themselves and their families,” said Carlos Rodriguez, VP of Agency Resources & Benefit Access for the Food Bank For New York City. “We’re grateful to Speaker Quinn and the Council for providing this opportunity to get the word out so that more New Yorkers will get the assistance they need to help make financial ends meet.”
One of the city’s VITA sites, the East River Development Alliance (ERDA) in Long Island City, Queens, has already served about 1,000 New Yorkers and effectively secured $1.6 million this tax season – including $1.1 million in the EITC alone – for low-income filers in the community. Since 2005, ERDA’s free tax preparation program has secured over $8 million for 5,000 individuals in its community.
“The ERDA Free Tax Preparation program is located across the street from Queensbridge Houses – the largest public housing community in the nation, with 10,000 residents and 96 buildings,” said Bishop Mitchell G. Taylor, ERDA President and CEO. “ERDA’s tax preparation program has helped thousands of low-income workers and other low-income residents secure free tax refunds, as well as access income supports, mainstream financial services, and public benefits such as Food Stamps and public health insurance.”
“I want to commend the work that Bishop Mitchell Taylor and the staff of the East River Development Alliance has done in helping the residents of Queens get their tax returns filed this year,” said Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan. “ERDA has worked hard to make sure that all residents get the help that they need by providing programs such as the tax prep program.”
“Effective tax advice should not be the exclusive province of the wealthiest among us, who use high-priced lawyers and accountants to find tax loopholes and save millions,” said Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Queens). “Unfortunately, those who most need help are often unaware of the aid available to them. I am proud to support ERDA, as it does an effective job of reaching out to our neighbors who most need a helping hand during this economic crisis.”
“I encourage low-income New Yorkers to take advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit and the free tax prep services offered by ERDA and the Food Bank,” said Representative Carolyn Maloney. “It’s your money –don’t leave it sitting in an IRS account. I thank Speaker Quinn, Councilman Van Bramer, and Bishop Taylor for their efforts to make sure that hard-working New Yorkers get the benefits they deserve.”
Free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites are available throughout the five boroughs. To find a VITA site near you, call 311 or visit http://www.nyc.gov/html/ofe/html/poverty/taxassistance.shtml