Insider NJ

New Jersey Citizen Action Launches Tax Season At Free Tax Preparation Center

Insider NJ — February 5, 2019

Newark — Today New Jersey Citizen Action, Newark City Council President Mildred Crump, Maplewood Mayor Victor DeLuca, community partners and tax clients gathered for a press conference kicking off the 2019 tax season at NJCA's Economic Security Center on Halsey Street. The Center offers free tax preparation, as well as guidance and information on how to avoid hidden fees and expensive charges from for-profit tax preparers and criminal scammers. Federal employees, recipients of housing vouchers, and low- income filers in general are very anxious to get their returns and are much more vulnerable to scams than usual.

"With the federal shutdown and confusion about the new tax law, as well as likely delays in the processing of EITC and Additional Child Tax Credit refunds, tax scams and fraud are on the rise," said Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, Executive Director of New Jersey Citizen Action. "It's more important than ever that we fight back against misinformation, and that eligible New Jersey taxpayers take full advantage of legitimate free tax preparation services. We also strongly recommend that they file their taxes early."

"This year, more so than in any other year, people need NJCA's tax assistance," said Mayor Vic DeLuca of Maplewood. "Changes to the federal tax law that hurt the residents of our state, lack of support for the Earned Income Tax Credit, and disarray in Washington, DC, will create more confusion for taxpayers. NJCA will help people navigate through the tax filing process and obtain all the benefits to which they are entitled. They will empower taxpayers. I'll be promoting NJCA's services to the residents of my community. NJCA is on the side of the taxpayers and I'm proud to stand with them today."

Over the past 12 years, NJCA has helped prepare more than 41,086 tax returns for refunds totaling more than $68.7 million for New Jersey families, with nearly 6,000 returns prepared in 2018. More than $26.3 million in returns have come from state and federal Earned Income Tax Credit claims alone. Unfortunately, 1 in 5 New Jerseyans eligible for the credit do not claim it, leaving tens of millions of dollars on the table.

"Working families are looking for relief yet too many remain unaware of great programs, like EITC, which provide needed assistance," said Rosa Pagnillo-Lopez, PSE&G payment assistance outreach coordinator. "PSE&G urges all eligible residents to take advantage of these programs, including free tax preparation services."

"Our Foundation's mission is to ensure that the communities we serve are heathier places for all," said Jacqueline Gifuni-Koutsouris, Program Associate, Partners for Health Foundation. "We know that it's more difficult to maintain good health for community members with low incomes, unstable housing, or limited access to healthy foods. EITC provides an opportunity to bring additional money into a household. These dollars can pay electrical bills, put food on the table, or purchase much needed medications. When we help to alleviate financial struggles for working families, it's easier for families to make health a priority. Partners for Health Foundation is proud to partner with NJCA to offer free tax preparation services at the Bloomfield Public Library again this year."

NJCA's Economic Security Center also provided information on special initiatives and partnerships such as the SaveYourRefund incentive program, which encourages depositing tax refunds into savings accounts. Tax refunds are often the largest sums of cash many American households receive all year (often amounting up to 20% of annual household income) The SaveYourRefund program capitalizes on this tax-time moment as an easy method of saving, adding the incentive of frequent chances to win significant prize money to nudge filers into opting in to saving for their future.

The varied and robust services offered by NJCA's Economic Security Center have prompted many tax clients to return to Halsey Street year after year.

"By going to NJCA, I can save the money I earn throughout the year for my family," said Newark resident and tax client Sakinah Haywood. "Instead of coming out of pocket to get the same thing done with a for-profit tax preparer."

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