Tax season: Free filing help available in Brooklyn
Watch out for tax scams, state warns
Because of budget cuts, the IRS has had to decrease the amount of filing advice it can give to confused callers during this year’s tax season.
Brooklynites who need help filing their taxes have a number of free options, however, including new tax assistance locations set up by the New York State Tax Department.
The state has set up seven sites in the borough. They are:
* Asian Community United Society (ACUS), 6506 Bay Parkway
* ACUS, 244 Kings Highway
* Assemblymember Maritza Davila, 213 Johnson Ave.
* DeKalb Library, 790 Bushwick Ave.
* Jamaica Bay Library, 9727 Seaview Ave. at East 98th St. near Rockaway Parkway
* Red Hook Library, 7 Wolcott St.
* Coney Island Public Library, 1901 Mermaid Ave.
Appointments are recommended, but walk-ins are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. (Visit www.tax.ny.gov for hours and languages or call 518-457-5181.)
Taxpayers qualify for the free service if they earn $60,000 or less. Returns will be electronically filed (e-filed) with the help of a Tax Department volunteer.
The vast majority – roughly 90 percent – of tax forms are e-filed now, as opposed to paper filings, according to the state Tax Department. The state says that e-filing is safer, more accurate and faster.
New Yorkers “are glad to receive their refunds nearly twice as fast as they would if they had filed paper,” Executive Deputy Commissioner Nonie Manion said in a statement.
Security experts warn e-filers, however, to make sure their computers are loaded with the most up-to-date antivirus and firewall software to stop hackers. To the extent you can, protect your Social Security number and other personal information. Criminals have been using this information to file online tax returns, stealing refunds before taxpayers know what’s happening.
CNN reported that last year the IRS found 938,664 fraudulent returns related to identity theft, totaling $6.5 billion, as Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) J. Russell George told a House subcommittee.
It can take up to a year for the IRS to straighten out the mess and get a tax refund to the right taxpayer.
Scammers don’t need a computer to work their hacks. George urged taxpayers last month to beware of phone calls from people claiming to represent the IRS. There have been roughly 290,000 scam attempts reported since October 2013. Nearly 3,000 victims paid out more than $14 million via prepaid debit cards.
“This scam, which is international in nature, has proven to be the largest scam of its kind that we have ever seen,” George said in a statement, calling the criminals “ruthless.”
The phony callers threaten those who refuse to pay with immediate arrest, deportation or loss of a business or driver’s license, he said.
The IRS usually first contacts people by mail – not by phone – about unpaid taxes. And the IRS won’t ask for payment over the phone using a pre-paid debit card, wire transfer or credit card.
Other Places to Find Free Tax Help
If you can’t make it to one of the state help sites, other programs also offer free tax help for Brooklyn filers.
* The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax help to people who generally make $53,000 or less, persons with disabilities, the elderly and limited English speaking taxpayers.
Some VITA assistance sites in Brooklyn include the Business and Career Library at 280 Cadman Plaza West in Brooklyn Heights; Capital One Bank at 356 Fulton St. in Downtown Brooklyn; And Long Island University on Flatbush Avenue. (Call l 800-906-9887 for more locations or visit irs.gov.)
* The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program offers free tax help for all taxpayers, particularly those who are 60 years of age and older. A majority of the TCE sites are operated by the AARP Foundation. In Brooklyn, these include the Central Library at Grand Army Plaza, The Bedford Library at 496 Franklin Ave., and the Greenpoint Library at 107 Norman Ave. (For more sites call 888-227-7669.)
If you can file your own taxes without help, New Yorkers earning under $60,000 can simply prepare and e-file their taxes directly on the state Tax Department’s website. (Here is the IRS free file website.)
If you prefer to file using the paper forms, better start looking for them soon. Tax forms are no longer available at many post office branches, and not all library branches carry them, either.
For those who need older forms, Brooklyn’s Central Library has reproducible copies of Federal tax forms from 2007-2011 and New York State tax forms for the years 2010-2011.
An even larger selection has traditionally been available at the Business branch, with reproducible copies of Federal tax forms 1983 to 2011 and New York State tax forms 1979-1984,1986-1991,1994-2005, and 2008-2011.
For the computer-literate, most forms can be downloaded from the IRS website, though a few must be requested directly from the IRS. Call 1-800-TAX-FORM for more information.
The income tax filing season for tax year 2014 runs until April 15. More than 10 million New York returns will be filed, according to the state Tax Department.
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