Taxes. No one likes thinking about them, and everyone knows what a tense and tedious experience filing a return can be. With that in mind, here’s some news guaranteed to dispel your tax-season blues, dissolve your uncertainty about forms and documents, and dissipate your unease at dealing with the IRS: COJO Flatbush is once again offering free tax preparation for eligible taxpayers through the IRS-certified Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs.
That’s right – tax preparation absolutely free of charge for families that earned up to $72,000 and individuals who earned up to $50,000 in household income in 2021. It’s quick, convenient, and, most important of all, accurate, with tax-return forms carefully worked on by certified tax preparers intent on maximizing earned income tax credits and refunds.
The point about accuracy warrants elaboration. All VITA/TCE volunteers who prepare returns must pass tax-law training that meets or exceeds IRS standards. “The training,” notes COJO Flatbush Tax Prep Coordinator Benjamin Herman, “includes a strong emphasis on maintaining the privacy and confidentiality of all taxpayer information. And in addition to requiring that volunteers certify their knowledge of tax law, the IRS mandates a quality review check prior to filing for every return prepared at a VITA/TCE site.”
Herman says he’s especially excited about COJO’s capacity to help even more people this year. “In 2021 we provided professional and personalized service to substantially more clients than the year before. And in 2022 we’re utilizing more tax preparers, with the goal of doubling the number of clients we can assist.”
That assistance, says Natilee Reid, COJO Flatbush Lead Tax Preparer, “comes down to making sure clients are aware of the income documentation they need to submit, providing a general sense of reassurance, and answering their questions about any aspect of their tax return during the preparation process.”
Reid adds that 2021 was “an unusually challenging year, due to the fallout from the pandemic and its effect on so many people’s finances and employment status. And since taxpayers were filing returns last year for their 2020 taxes, clients had questions about their stimulus checks as well as changes in unemployment tax law and whether those changes applied to them. This year I anticipate a lot of questions and concerns regarding child tax credits, because of a change in tax law last year that gave parents pre-payments for tax credits.”
To COJO Flatbush Social Services Director Shulamis Shapiro, it’s the savings to taxpayers that stands out. “Even a relatively routine tax return will cost a person a couple hundred dollars,” she notes. “Multiply that by the number of tax-prep clients we service and you’re talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars remaining in the pockets of community members. That makes a tremendous difference to so many household budgets.”
This community content was submitted by COJO (cojoflatbush.org). For more information about COJO’s free tax-prep and to schedule an appointment, call Benjamin Herman at 718-377-2900, ext. 331.