It’s that time of year again. Dollar-shaped postcards stuck in your door promise a $50 bonus if you do your taxes with ABC Company. Flyers on telephone poles boast the highest returns in town. Men and woman adorned in Statue of Liberty costumes solicit passersbys. That can only mean one thing: Tax Season is here.
There are many tax preparers who are not certified who may leave you broke and in the red with the IRS. These fly-by-night agencies may promise the highest returns, but do so by falsifying documentation that may cause you to be audited. Other unscrupulous “tax preparers” use your name and social security number to steal your identity. Still, others are so eager to get their tax return money that they accept so-called tax refund loans and RALs (Refund Anticipation Loans)– and subsequently end up paying a huge chunk of change in interest. Don’t even think about it.
How can I protect myself from these predatory agencies?
Daily Finance posted an article on their blog about downfalls to avoid and how not to get scammed. AARP warns the public about all the scams you need to know about and cautions against pursuing those deals that seem too good to be true. The Better Business Bureau put out a check list of what you need to know before you get involved with a potentially phony accountant or tax preparation agency.
But I may still need to pay a pretty penny to get my taxes done, right?
Not necessarily, in fact, you may be eligible for free tax preparation, which just kicked off across the city this week. VITA or Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Sites are typically housed in non-profits, and organized by a combination of staff members and volunteers who have received special training.
How do I know if I’m eligible?
If you make $54,000 or less with dependents, or $30,000 with no dependents, you’re eligible for this service.
Where do I sign up?!
All you have to do is access the site, type in your address, and locations of the VITA sites nearest you will appear. The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs also has listings for free tax prep sites in the five boroughs. Community organizations throughout New York City are hosting tax preparation services.
I’m more of a DIY type and prefer to file on-line. Is there anything out there for me?
Definitely! I been filing my own taxes on-line for years and my return came direct deposit in less than 2 weeks! For those who earned $62,000 or less in 2015, there’s My Free Taxes, sponsored by United Way.
And remember, sharing is caring- tell your friends, family, and neighbors!