August 1, 2013

Looking Back at UNHP’s 2013 Tax Season

by UNHP

Summer is the perfect time to reflect on UNHP’s most recent Income Tax Preparation season as we begin to plan for next year. For the 6th straight year, UNHP, along with Fordham Bedford Community Services (FBCS) and Ariva, have offered VITA services to Northwest Bronx residents at Refuge House and from other various local locations providing low and moderate income households with free and accurate income tax filing.

The Bronx Free Tax Preparation Program helped over 1,630 residents this year for a total of $2.3 million in federal and state refunds! The average refund was $1,293, and with our service, filers kept every penny. Four hundred and seventy-seven individuals and families qualified for the Earned Income Tax Credit, bringing $976,365 back to our community. These tax filers are usually targeted by predatory tax services and their refunds are often siphoned away through Rapid Anticipation Checks or similar costly products.

In our effort to help residents save money and avoid predatory products during filing and in the long-term, we assisted unbanked and underbanked tax filers open new, low cost bank accounts. Twenty-six new affordable checking and savings accounts were opened for 19 households. These households added $32,560.64 into their new accounts.

Tax Volunteers and Filers in Action @ Refuge House & Mobile Locations
Tax Volunteers and Filers in Action @ Refuge House & Mobile Locations

Strengthening Filers and Community

This year a total of 1,800 returns were filed, bringing many filers up-to-date with their taxes. The center photo on the left of collage shows a happy “up-to-date” tax filer and volunteer holding 3 envelopes, containing the filer’s 2009, 2010 and 2011 State tax returns. These were mailed to recover unclaimed refunds. If they had not sent the 2009 forms while e-filing his 2012 return, the tax filer would have lost all of that year’s credit.

UNHP also helped over 30 immigrant individuals and families file with or apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) from the IRS. After many attempts, the Laras, a family of four with just one income, applied for an ITIN. With the help from UNHP this year, both mother and daughter received ITINs and, for the first time, were able to correctly file as a family. Filing their taxes as a married couple with two dependents they obtained $965 they weren’t expecting. Graciela Lara shared how this refund came at the perfect time, since her husband, a self-employed carpenter and sole earner, is currently working less hours. “We are really struggling to make ends meet,” she said. En UNHP “nos atendieron muy bien, nos sacaron de muchas dudas sobre el proceso de impuesto y como obtener un ITIN. Y sin decepciones, ni mentiras solo en la preparación ahoramos más de $500”. This translates to - at UNHP they answered our questions and helped clear our doubts about the Income Tax filing process and ITIN application. On the Tax Preparation alone, we saved over $500.

Impact at Mobile Sites

This year UNHP offered mobile tax preparation at 11 different sites, including LIFT and POTS. At mobile sites we further removed filing obstacles for the disabled and elderly. At LIFT the Bronx, UNHP served 125 tax filers and completed a total of 207 tax returns. These clients received a total of $116,766 in refunds. At Part of the Solution (POTS), 95 clients filed 136 returns for a total of $83,257 in tax refunds. This effort at just two of our mobile sites kept $200,023 in the Bronx and in the pockets of earners.

Volunteer Commitment

Our success with tax filers and partners is possible because of the great support from the local high schools, colleges and universities. Eighty-nine students from Manhattan College, Fordham University and the Theodore Roosevelt Campus were trained as IRS preparers or intake greeters and contributed 1,565 hours from January 25 to April 14. The photo collage shows some of the 2012 volunteers in action! To read more about our volunteers and their experience from Manhattan College visit this page.

Thanks to everyone who was a part of this year’s tax program! Starting in January, if you are searching for a free way to accurately file your taxes or to volunteer during the 2014 tax season, call UNHP at (718) 933-2539 or visit our tax page!

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