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Where to find free tax help

Elected officials are encouraging Queens resisdents to take advantage of free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), part of the East River Development Alliance (ERDA), and potentially receive thousands back in tax returns.

VITA sites allow qualified working families and individuals to take advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) benefits, providing assistance to families with children who have a 2010 income of less than $50,000 and single filers making less than $18,000.

City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and councilmembers Peter F. Vallone Jr. and Jimmy Van Bramer gathered at ERDA’s Free Tax Prep site to promote VITA and speak about the opportunities it provides New Yorkers.

“The fact that it could provide a family with thousands of dollars in tax returns is outstanding,” said Quinn. “That’s money that could go to a college fund, starting a new business or simply not worrying about putting food on the table.”

Since late January, ERDA’s expert preparers have filed over 800 tax returns for community members. The alliance has secured nearly $2 million, including over $700,000 in EITC alone, for low-income filers and approximately $12 million since 2005 through its free tax preparation program.

According to the IRS, one in five taxpayers who are eligible for EITC do not take advantage of the opportunity.

“ERDA is committed to ensuring residents of public housing can achieve self-sufficiency and economic mobility,” said ERDA President and Founder Bishop Mitchell Taylor. “All our clients have access to screening for public benefits onsite, referrals to all ERDA programs, and can immediately become members of the ERDA Federal Credit Union.”

Over 50 tax filers have taken advantage of ERDA’s Federal Credit Union by opening a savings account and directly depositing their tax returns.

Roxana Uribe, a resident of Queensbridge Houses, recently filed her taxes with ERDA. “In the past I’ve filed my taxes using the private companies and I’ve paid as much as $300 to do so,” said Uribe. “This year, I not only filed my taxes for free, but I also was able to sign up my son for ERDA’s Workforce Development Program…I received close to $2,500 in returns – my maximum tax return possible.”

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