Money Matters: Sites allow NYers to file taxes for free
While there's no way around filing your taxes, it doesn't necessarily mean you have to pay for it. YNN's Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following "Money Matters" report.
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The Food Bank for New York is one of thousands of VITA sites around the country. VITA stands for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and it's where low income taxpayers can get help filing for free.
"All of our volunteers and staff here are IRS certified to provide you with the tax returns and the tax credits that you are entitled to. We e-file for you for free. The only thing it costs is your time to come and do your taxes with us," says Food Bank for New York City Senior Director of Tax Services German Tejeda.
The program is available to taxpayers who make less than $50,000 a year. Fanny Hernandez comes every year and says the volunteers make her feel comfortable and confident.
"They know what they're doing. If you need help, they let you know what you have to do. If you cannot do it, they tell you 'Okay. I'll do it for you. Just give me the information,'" says Hernandez.
That information includes all the necessary documents: Social Security cards, W2s and 1099s. The staff can also help identify any credits one might be eligible for, like the Earned Income Tax Credit, which Jodi Patterson of the IRS says can be worth up to $5,700.
"This is extra money that is available to you if you work, even if you pay little or no tax, it's a refundable tax credit. That means you can still get it back, even if you haven't paid taxes," says Patterson.
VITA sites aren't the only places you can file free of charge. Most people can e-file for free at the IRS website, regardless of income.
Free File works in two ways. Those making less than $57,000 a year can choose from a list of participating companies like TurboTax and H&R Block. Those making more can use Free File fillable forms, which is basically like filling out the paper forms online. Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jonathan Mintz says either option is worth exploring.
"If you qualify for free tax preparation, go get it for free," Mintz suggests. "If you can do it online, go do it online and get it for free, so you don't have to pay somebody to get your money back."
For more information on how to Free File or to find a VITA site near you, visit irs.gov.