By Madina Toure
State Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing) and non-profit Urban Upbound launched the third year of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program for Flushing and Whitestone residents.
VITA, a program that offers free tax preparation services during the tax season, is a partnership between Kim’s office and Urban Upbound, a Queens-based community organization that provides public housing neighborhoods with services such as financial counseling, college preparation and career development.
For the 2013-14 time period, Kim’s office filed more than 1,400 tax returns with nearly $1 million in tax refund claims. The partnership between Kim’s office and Urban Upbound also helped put nearly $400,000 back into the pockets of working families through the Earned Income Tax Credit.
During the second year, his office filed nearly 900 tax returns and more than 500 the first year.
“These numbers demonstrate the need from our community for this critical service,” Kim said. “We have already started receiving phone calls and appointment requests this year. Providing a VITA site is a clear way to connect people to financial services and long term financial planning.”
The total amount of money claimed for tax refunds and the Earned Income Tax Credit doubled, from $440,000 in 2013 to $860,000 in 2014. And last year, 800 low-income families took advantage of VITA.
“With over 26 million dollars in returns to residents of NYC to date, we are really excited about Tax Prep this year,” Bishop Taylor, Urban Upbound’s CEO and founder, said. “This year we have 8 sites in full operation and a suite of wrap around services to benefit our tax filers.”
VITA offers free tax help to individuals whose incomes are $53,000 or less, individuals with disabilities, the elderly and limited English-speaking taxpayers who need help preparing their own tax returns, according to IRS’ official website. Internal Revenue Service-certified volunteers give eligible individuals free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing.
VITA sites are funded through the IRS to the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance and the funding goes to different non-profits to hold sites in different areas.
Multiple IRS-certified VITA staff and tax preparers will be onsite each day to provide one-on-one tax help. There will also be workforce development counseling and financial literacy help upon request.
The program will conclude April 15, the closing of the tax season. Appointments, which must be made in advance, will take place on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 260–4566.