City pushes free tax prep, underused tax credit
by Holly Bieler
Feb 04, 2015 | 5426 views | 0 0 comments | 191 191 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With tax season in full swing, government officials gathered Monday at the Bed-Stuy Restoration Corporation’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site to discuss the free tax preparation, as well as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

The EITC is a refundable tax credit for low-income individuals and families which an estimated 1 in 5 eligible households across the city still don’t receive.

“In the last administration they spent approximately $165,000 on bus and subway ads to let people know about [the EITC],” said Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Julie Menin. “We did not think that was enough.”

Monday’s event was the latest in an unprecedented $3 million campaign targeting the estimated 250,000 EITC-eligible households in New York City who don’t file for the credit each year. The campaign aims to raise the number of filing households by 50,000 this year over last.

“Our challenge is to reach all eligible workers to make them aware of the EITC,” said Louis Morizio, Territory Manager of Stakeholder Partnerships, Education and Communication of Internal Revenue Service. “There’s millions of people a year who miss out on the credit they deserve.”

This year’s campaign included a phone bank last Saturday, in which 2,000 volunteers fluent in three languages called an estimated 270,000 New Yorkers to help spread awareness of the EITC.

The DCA will also invest nearly $2.3 million to expand the core services of the partners offering free tax preparation, and will add 60 VITA sites this year over last, totaling 200 citywide.

“Some New Yorkers are eligible for up to $10,000 that they’re just leaving on the table,” said Menin. “The average [EITC credit] is $2,500. We’re talking about really significant amounts of money.

“Through this new outreach that the city is doing, we’re expecting that we can give $260 million back in terms of refunds and saved tax preparation fees,” she added. “That’s $260 million that’s going to go back to New Yorkers.”

Joining Menin were representatives from the office of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the IRS and Food Bank for New York City, which runs the Bed-Stuy VITA site.

“The EITC, combined with the refund, is the biggest check low-income workers are going to get in the year,” said Triada Stampas, vice president of Research & Public Affairs of Food Bank For New York City. “We know when they get that check people’s food purchases increase, and the quality of food they’re able to afford increases as well. Protein and produce are the two categories that low-income people buy more of in the months when they get their tax return.”

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