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Haven't filed your taxes yet? A consumer alert on how you can file for free

Posted at: 04/04/2013 5:40 PM
Updated at: 04/04/2013 5:52 PM
By: Ray Levato

The deadline is approaching for filing your income taxes and there's good news for late filers. If your income qualifies, it's free.

The income line is $57,000. The state tax department is trying to get the word and it issued a consumer alert.

There are almost $10 million tax returns filed in New York State every year and nearly half of those people still haven't filed yet.

The free tax software programs aren't always free. Governor Cuomo says his goal is to save taxpayers wherever and whenever possible. The state's free tax filing program is being under-used and that's why the governor wants more people to know about it.

Barb Johnson was getting help with her federal and state income taxes Thursday on the second floor of the Sibley Building downtown.

Barb Johnson said, “This is a great place to go to and they are friendly and they help you, whatever they can do they'll do and it's free.”

Free because this is part of the state's free tax service for people whose incomes are under a certain limit.

The state offers free software programs online. It's www.tax.ny.gov, for people with incomes below $57,000. And if you're uncomfortable doing it yourself, you can have it done in person,  as long as your income is less than $55,000 families with children. And under $40,000 for people without children.
    
Rita Garrestson is Director of the Empire Justice Center, which along with the United Way, heads a coalition of groups that provide this free service.  She says this way, people get to keep all of their tax refunds instead of paying a big chunk of it to a tax preparer service.                 

Rita Garrestson, Empire Justice Center, said, “We're probably saving people on average $200-$300 to have a tax return prepared. Of course, we've had people who have come and told us they paid as much as $800 or $900 for their tax return preparation. It's very disconcerting to hear how much some people pay.”
 
The tax preparers are all volunteers who devote at least four hours a week for 12 weeks and have to pass an I.R.S. certification.  

Barb de Leeuw is a retired school teacher who gives of her time.

Barb de Leeuw, tax preparer, said, “It's really very exciting to work with clients that have been coming back and have learned how to take care of their income tax, have learned to be responsible, who are building toward buying houses or doing other kinds of things. So it's very fulfilling work and that's true of all of us.”

Besides the Sibley Building downtown, the other main tax preparation centers are South Town Plaza in Henrietta next to Planet Fitness and in the Ridge Goodman Plaza in Irondequoit near Marshalls. Walk-ins are welcome.

Besides income requirements, there any other limitations. For example, you can't have rental property or have sold stocks, bonds or other financial assets.
   
These sites are part of the local C.A.S.H. Program. C.A.S.H. is an acronym for creating assets, savings and hope, to help working families get the money and assistance they've earned.