A free tax preparation program helped hundreds of Long Islanders save on fees, the Health & Welfare Council of Long Island says.
Changes to tax policy created a lot of stress, especially on Long Island. “One agency wanted to charge me $450 for a very simple form,” said one client. “I just don’t have that kind of money.”
The Virtual Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program helped nearly 520 Long Islanders complete their 2018 and file for free, saving them nearly $100,000 in tax preparation fees.
The initiative, managed by the Health & Welfare Council of Long Island, in collaboration with Food Bank for New York City with support from Citi, Bank of America, Capital One, Bridgehampton National Bank, helped clients receive thousands of dollars combined refunds.
Among some of the most affected were seniors living on a fixed income or working minimally. HWCLI’s staff partnered with libraries and other non-profits to help clients in community-based settings to navigate through new tax code policy and address the associated anxiety about this year’s tax season.
“At HWCLI, we are committed to improving opportunity for all of our neighbors, region-wide. It is why we are especially happy to have expanded our tax preparation services on the East end of Long Island where geographic isolation results in reduced service provision,” said Rebecca Sanin, President/CEO of the Health & Welfare Council of Long Island. “The need for free tax preparation services has never been greater as our neighbors contended with less refunds than they were used to and as many faced the prospect of owing money for the first time in their lives.”
Along with the free tax preparation, many clients were eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). According to IRS: Nationwide during 2018, 25 million eligible workers and families received about $63 billion in EITC. The average amount of EITC received nationwide was about $2,488.
“Tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit are critical and effective anti-poverty tools-that is why free tax preparation services are such a vital lifeline for low-income New Yorkers,” said Francisco Tezen, Chief Development Officer at Food Bank For New York City. “Food Bank For New York City is thrilled that our partnership with HWCLI has helped more than 500 New Yorkers in Long Island receive free tax preparation services.”
Virtual VITA is a federal program that enables individuals and families who make 55,000 dollars or less to have their taxes prepared and filed with the IRS.