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Array of tax helpers available for ‘season’

Saturday, February 2, 2013
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— Every year, the United Way of the Greater Capital Region provides taxpayers with low to moderate incomes with free help filing their tax returns.

Traditionally, that help has come in the form of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, which makes IRS-trained volunteers available at community locations during tax season.

This year United Way is offering a new service: a website where taxpayers can file their state and federal income taxes for free using software from H&R Block. This service is available at www.MyFreeTaxes.com/NYCapregion. Users can call a hotline for assistance.

The VITA program is open to taxpayers with incomes below $51,000. The free online service is open to taxpayers with incomes below $57,000.

One of the goals of program is to help taxpayers access the Earned Income Tax Credit, a refundable tax credit that can result in a sizable refund.

“We want to empower people to become financially stable,” said Beth Anne Smith, United Way’s community impact manager for financial stability.

Last year the VITA program processed 13,000 Capital Region tax returns, a slight increase from 2010, Smith said.

The AARP also offers free tax assistance. There is no income limit, but the program is restricted to seniors.

There are over 40 free tax help sites throughout the Capital Region, some of which are co-sponsored by AARP and United Way. For a list of sites, visit www.cashgreatercapitalregion.org.

One popular Schenectady County VITA site is based at the Ellis Medical Home at 600 McClellan Street. This site is open between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays, and for half a day on Saturdays.

There are also two new tax-filing sites, both in downtown Albany.

One site, located on the Empire State Plaza Concourse near the Key Bank branch, provides two private kiosks for taxpayers to prepare and file their returns electronically, with assistance from IRS-certified volunteers from Albany Law School and the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance.

The site, which is sponsored by United Way, the Creating Assets Savings and Hope Coalition, the IRS and the state Tax Department, is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Upon filing their tax returns, taxpayers with college-bound students will also be able to receive assistance in filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, the form families are required to submit to receive financial aid for college. Representatives from the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation will be available at the Empire State Plaza Concourse site to assist with the process.

The New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance is also offering free tax help at its 40 North Pearl Street location in Albany. This site is open Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

To set up a program at a VITA set, call 211.

 
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