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How to file your taxes for free in Brooklyn

Tax returns are due April 15

March 12, 2019 Mary Frost
Tax season is upon us. Find out how to file for free in New York State. AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

Tax returns are due April 15, but don’t wait until the last minute. Changes in tax laws are giving headaches to many filers this year, so you’ll want to work out your numbers as soon as possible.

You can always buy software or pay a professional tax preparer, but for many of us that’s not necessary. New York City and state offer free tax preparation if you earn $66,000 or less. You can file online or, if you make under $54,000, you can file in person at a NYC Free Tax Prep site.

When filing in person, volunteer tax preparers can help you with most basic state and federal returns, including itemized deductions, simple self-employment, amended returns and prior-year returns. If you file in person, some sites let you drop off your tax documents and pick up the completed return later.

Visit NYC Free Tax Prep to learn how to file online or to find the locations of free sites (or call 311).

If you’re a senior, you can call 800-906-9887 to find the nearest Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) or Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) site.

Make sure you bring all of your documents and records with you when you go so you don’t have to make a return trip. These include a picture ID, Social Security card(s), a voided check if requesting direct deposit of your refund, all W-2 and other tax documents and last year’s income tax returns.

If you’re a business owner, note that the volunteers can’t prepare more complex returns, which include the following:

  • Business income with more than $25,000 in expenses
  • Business income with net losses
  • Business income with deductions for inventory, depreciation or employees

If you can file your own state taxes without help, New Yorkers earning under $66,000 can prepare and e-file their taxes directly on the state Tax Department’s website.

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Brooklyn Public Library also sponsors several free programs to help people file their taxes.

NYC Free Tax Prep sites are scattered across the city. Find the site closest to you at nyc.gov/taxprep. Map via NYC and Google Maps
NYC Free Tax Prep sites are scattered across the city. Find the site closest to you at nyc.gov/taxprep. Map via NYC and Google Maps

Federal tax filing

The IRS also offers free in-person volunteer help for federal income tax forms. The income cutoff is $54,000. To ensure no mistakes will be made, a second preparer double-checks every return. Many of the sites are manned by AARP Foundation’s Tax Aide program. A quick check discovered multiple sites across Brooklyn, including one at Brooklyn Borough Hall.

If you don’t qualify for these free services, don’t have time to run to a site or just want to file your federal taxes yourself for free, file online using the IRS’ My Free Taxes. This site has more forms than any other free tax preparation software. If you need help, experts are available to answer questions by phone, email and chat.

H&R Block

H&R Block also offers free tax filing for simple returns, and it gets good reviews.

Watch out for scammers

The IRS warns that scammers are reaping a bonanza this time of year. The agency wants filers to know that the IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information.

They also warn about “a surge” of fraudulent emails impersonating the IRS and using tax transcripts as bait to entice users to open documents containing malware. (More on tax scams here.)

Paper forms are getting scarce

If you prefer to file using the old-school 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 Business Branch at the Central Library has reproducible copies of certain years of Federal tax forms: from 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.

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