It’s no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic is also impacting the 2021 tax season. Local officials are getting the word out about free virtual tax services available and warning filers to be on the lookout for scams.
The tax season officially starts Feb. 12 and Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) Commissioner Lorelei Salas is encouraging New Yorkers who earned $68,000 or less in 2020 to file for free using NYC Free Tax Prep. Services are being performed virtually, via drop-off and in-person.
“We know many New Yorkers are worried about possible changes to their taxes this year but if you earned $68,000 or less in 2020—do not pay to get your refund,” said Salas. “Whether you lost your job and did or didn’t withhold taxes for unemployment, had new child care needs, don’t need to file but need help claiming your stimulus check, whatever your situation—NYC Free Tax Prep can help. Paid preparers cannot get you your refund any faster and we want you to keep every penny of your hard-earned refund.”
NYC Free Tax Prep can be done virtually where an IRS certified Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)/Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) volunteer preparer will video conference with filers to help prepare their tax return using a secure digital system. Filers can also complete their tax return online on their own and an IRS certified VITA/TCE volunteer preparer will be available by phone or email to answer questions.
New Yorkers can also drop off their tax documents and pick up the completed return later. In-person tax prep sites are also available on a limited basis. VITA/TCE volunteer preparers will help filers complete an accurate tax return. Filers must wear a mask and social distance during their visit.
Officials are also reminding filers about the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Single and married people are eligible if they worked full or part time at some point during 2020 and earned less than $15,820 (for single persons with no dependents) and up to $56,844 (for married couples with three or more dependents). Some non-custodial parents may also be eligible. The federal, state, and City EITC can be combined to be worth up to $8,991.
“EITC is one of the most powerful economic mobility tools available to low- and moderate- income households,” said Single Stop National Director of Operations Allison Byrne. “Single Stop is proud to deliver free services through our NYC Free Tax Prep program, providing hardworking New Yorkers with a high-quality, no-cost way to file taxes. Through VITA and EITC, New Yorkers avoid costly fees and access critical financial resources they depend on for their family’s financial stability throughout the year.”
Filers can call 311 or visit nyc.gov/taxprep to choose the best filing option for them. A checklist of what documents New Yorkers need to bring with them to file and multilingual information about the services are available at nyc.gov/taxprep.
The IRS is also warning filers about “ghost” tax return preparers who refuse to sign returns that can cause an array of problems. Ghost preparers don’t sign tax returns they prepare. They will try to prepare a return and will print the return and get the taxpayer to sign and mail it. For e-filed returns, the ghost preparer will prepare but refuse to digitally sign it as the paid preparer.
The IRS urges taxpayers to review returns carefully and ask questions about anything not clear before signing. Taxpayers should verify both their routing and bank account number on the completed tax return for any direct deposit refund. Taxpayers should watch out for preparers putting their bank account information onto the returns.