In New York City, we all know death and taxes are inevitable, but it's easy to remove fear around the latter by taking advantage of new programs and technology. I like free. We all like free and now many of you can file your taxes for free. Yes, 99% this is my Presidents' Day gift to you well in advance of the new extended April 17th filing deadline for New York City and New York.
If you are filing a simple W-2 this year and earn less than $57,000 a year or know someone who is in this income bracket, I recommend taking advantage of the free filing process at MyFreeTaxes.
Even if you are not in this income bracket, you likely know someone who is. Of the 135 million U.S. taxpayers in 2011, 80 million reported adjusted gross incomes of $50,000 or less.
Now, this program is not for everyone. I would still advise working with an accountant, if you are a small business owner with complicated deductions, or say a retiree with annuity payments, or anyone handling anything beyond a straight- forward return.
For the majority of New Yorkers and Americans in the right income bracket, MyFreeTaxes is a great program sponsored by the Wal-Mart Foundation. Partners of this campaign include One Economy's theBeehive.org, the National Disability Institute's Real Economic Impact Tour (REI Tour), and United Way Worldwide.
I really like the simple instructions online. Rather than making you feel lost in a sea of techno-garble, paperwork and forms, this program breaks down very clearly where you start step by step and includes a great checklist.
I did field a concern with One Economy that the offer seemed more of a social assistance program and would turn off up and coming young New Yorkers, but the Senior Director of Program Development Lee Davenport assured me, "We're not trying to sell a low income service, we're trying to make sure that people have good, honest fair access to tax preparation services and we just really want to make sure people bring the right documents whatever they have."
If you are in NYC and need offline assistance with taxes, you can plug in your zip code on the right hand side of the site through a search tool that links to the IRS database. Here, you will find NYC locations, including Hunter College that may prove helpful to the people in your life without a computer and who wish to file their taxes for free as well.
Finally, tax refunds are distributed as quickly as seven to ten business days if there is a refund due and unlike the Free File Alliance offerings (also at $57,000), this program is the only online free federal and state product without any restrictions on age or state of residence.