Tax season is often a daunting time for many in the borough, but it looks like help is available.
Reports that some unscrupulous tax preparers dupe people into expensive loans against their tax refunds has some fighting back using community-based solutions.
Now anyone from the borough with a gross income of under $24,000 for a single person or $60,000 for a family of four can have their taxes prepared for free.
For the second year, a partnership between Councilman Ritchie Torres and Urban Upbound will offer anyone in his councilmanic district who meets the income guidelines to have volunteer tax professionals, certified by the IRS, prepare their taxes.
The councilman made the announcement of the continued partnership at his Fordham district office on Friday, February 19.
Constituents immediately brought their tax documents to the councilman’s office to be prepared.
Last year, Torres’ office processed 509 returns with more than $1.13 million in refunds, with an average refund of $2,223 in a district where the median income is around $20,000 per year, according to his office.
“I think of tax prep as a stimulus for the local economy; it puts dollars in the pockets of local Bronx residents,” said Torres, adding “Every dollar we return to a Bronx resident who lives on limited means is a dollar reinvested in the Bronx economy: it can be a dollar of profit for a small business owner or a dollar of earnings for a worker.”
The partnership with Urban Upbound also protects local consumers from being financially exploited by predatory tax preparers, the councilman said.
Torres called the tax prep program a game changer for the local community. It can be a lifeline to local residents, he said.
“If you are living on the brink, $2,000 means you are able to put food on the table, pay your rent and keep your family and yourself afloat,” said the councilman. “Even though this is tax prep, it is so much more.”
At the announcement, Torres thanked Urban Upbound CEO Bishop Mitchell Taylor, who said that preparing taxes at Torres’ office would allow locals to sidestep rapid refund loans with costly interest rates.
“Individuals can take advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit benefit as well as comprehensive financial counseling services and referrals to services,” said Taylor about some of the benefits of getting your taxes done by Urban Upbound.
Michael Barton, 44, of Soundview, is one of the people who came to Torres’s district office to have his taxes prepared.
Barton said that it is thoughtful of the councilman to offer the program, and said that it means a lot because bills can be paid with money that would have gone to a tax preparer.
“A lot of people will put extra food on their tables with the money,” he said.
To schedule an appointment to prepare your taxes, call (718) 842-8100.