With less than a month left to file taxes before the deadline, New York City’s first lady is asking New Yorkers to not be afraid of applying for the city’s free tax prep services — because for some, the benefits can really make a difference in their everyday lives.
First Lady Chirlane McCray spoke with Metro on Tuesday about her work with the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs to remind New Yorkers that they still have time to file their taxes.
Along with reminding the busy residents of the Big Apple about the April 18 deadline, McCray is also calling on individuals who earn $62,000 or less to file their taxes for free using NYC Free Tax Prep.
According to the first lady, although the services are available to all who are eligible, she is encouraging women and single mothers especially — who are more likely to claim Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the NYC Child Care Tax Credit (NYC CCTC) — to take advantage of the services and get the refund owed to them.
“They may need the extra help to figure out how to get the returns,” McCray told Metro. “We know families need these refunds…We know that moms can use that money.”
Based on information from the U.S. Department of Labor, women are more likely to work part time or be self-employed compared to men, which can lead to more difficult tax returns resulting in a larger cost when paying a tax preparer.
According to officials, in New York State women earned 87 percent of what men earned and throughout the state women are more than twice as likely as men to work low-wage jobs.
In addition, more than 80 percent of single-parent households in the country are led by women and are at or below the poverty line.
“Single mothers across the boroughs know how difficult it can be to make ends meet. We think that tax time can help low income working families save money and apply for substantial tax credits,” said
Azadeh Khalili, executive director of the Commission on Gender Equity.
For Mariana Munoz, a mother of three from the Bronx, getting the help from the city has allowed her to save money that she knows will be there in case of any emergency.
Munoz has been filing her taxes through the city since 2012 and said the process is easy and if she ever has any questions the whole process is explained thoroughly.
“The city should keep doing the programs because it really helps a lot of people,” Munoz said in Spanish. “This helps you a lot.”
This year, the city’s tax preparation services include over 200 Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and AARP Tax-Aide sites throughout the five boroughs. At the sites, returns are prepared by an IRS-certified VITA/TCE volunteer preparer and at drop-off sites, filers can drop off their tax documents and later pick up the completed return or receive it by email. There is also online self-preparation at nyc.gov/taxprep.
For New York City working families, federal EITC claims average about $2,400 and can go up to about $8,427. Families with low incomes who are employed or underemployed and have child care costs for children up to four years old could also be eligible for up to $1,733 with the NYC CCTC. In total, families can see refundable tax credits of more than $10,000.
“I think it’s kind of hard for people to believe that there is actually free money out there for them,” McCray said. “I’m lending my voice to this effort because we want people to know this is real.”
McCray also said the city is partnering with a variety of organization in order to make sure people from all throughout the city can get help when it comes to filing their taxes.
Starting Wednesday — along with additional advertising, postcard mailing, robocalls and more — the city will also launch NYC Free Tax Prep Coffee Days where free coffee will be given out at locations which have high concentration of EITC-eligible households.
An outreach team will also head out to 17 targeted areas to encourage people to file their taxes for free at their local NYC Free Tax Prep site.
McCray added that its important to make sure as many people benefit from eh services as possible and hopes New Yorkers get rid of the fear and take advantage of the services
“This is free money and free help to get the free money,” she said. “Don’t be afraid.”