Rangel Promotes Online Tax Preparation

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Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY) recently headlined Harlem launch of the Free File Alliance, a program providing free online tax preparation and e-filing services to millions of New Yorkers. 

Dozens of Harlem students from Rice High School and Frederick Douglass Academy volunteered their time to get the word out about Tax Assistance Events, and to help taxpayers log on and use computers. The students, in partnership with several community-based organizations including FoodChange and the Harlem YMCA, will be volunteering though the April 17th end of the tax season. 

FoodChange, the largest IRS VITA site in the nation, has 10 computers set aside at its St. Nicholas Avenue branch office for taxpayer use.

Ed Black, President of The Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) hosted the press conference to show Harlem residents how they could benefit from the offerings of the Free File Alliance (FFA), a partnership launched in 2003 between the IRS and 17 online tax preparation software companies.

The members of the FFA make some of the best known and most trusted commercial tax software – like Intuit’s TurboTax Freedom Edition – available for free online to 95 million Americans who qualify.

Black praised Intuit and the Free File Alliance for helping to bridge the digital divide while providing a much-needed public service. “We are thrilled to be publicizing this alliance today because it will also help with something both Congressman Rangel and we at CCIA have strongly advocated: putting technology’s tools into everyone’s hands, and helping people in Harlem and elsewhere get the tax refunds to which they are entitled quickly, securely and for free,� Black said.

"What is truly great is how this effort has continued to grow to include more community partners and our youth," said Rangel.  "Thanks to Intuit, Food Change and the other members of the Free File Alliance, millions of hardworking people have been able to find out about their Earned Income Tax Credit and quickly get the refunds that they are entitled to." 

A recent study based on IRS and Government Accountability Office data suggested that between 15% and 25% of lower-income working families qualified to receive the EITC are unaware of their eligibility and do not claim the credit on their tax forms.  Eligible New Yorkers could receive over $500 million in credits if they filed for the EITC, and the FFA e-file programs help them to do so.

More than 50 students at Harlem high schools have been trained to help community members log on to use tax filing software.  Frederick Douglass Academy senior Sofia Mohammed said, “I never knew I could use taxes to do community service. This was a great way to learn, and I enjoyed helping others use the program to prepare their returns. It is something they should be proud of.� 

Sircharles McCoy, a senior at Rice Academy said, “My friends and I get a lot out of volunteering. I gained a lot more than I thought I would from this experience. I like that it helps me, and it helps others.�

Joining Black and Rangel at the event was Steve Bennett, CEO of Intuit Inc., which makes the popular TurboTax program. “Intuit is proud to be a leader in the Free File Alliance.  We’ve worked particularly hard in the last year to make the Free File Alliance into what will truly be a consumer safety zone,� Bennett said, “where these community members can get their Federal and New York State income taxes prepared and e-filed for free.�

Taxpayers who wish to use the free services do not need to own a computer.  Any taxpayer can use this online resource by accessing http://www.taxfreedom.com on the Internet at computer terminals in their local public library, school or community center.

"All these efforts are instrumental in not just helping consumers get back their refunds, but also in bridging the digital divide," said Rangel.  "It reaches out to those taxpayers who may have shied away from using the Internet in the past, and those taxpayers will find, with the help of companies like Intuit and others, that online tax preparation is easy, fast and secure."

To illustrate this program’s value, Rangel highlighted the specifics of Intuit’s TurboTax for the Web service, donated through the Intuit Tax Freedom Project. The Tax Freedom Project provides this free service to all NY taxpayers who:
[] Have AGI of $28,500 or less
[] Qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
[] Active duty military (with AGI of $52,000 or less)

In addition, taxpayers meeting these eligibility criteria who live in one of 21 Free File States – of which New York is one of the leading States – can use TurboTax to prepare and file BOTH federal AND state returns at no cost through the FFA.  Intuit also offers the ability to file a form 1040EZ-T, which allows non-tax filers to file for the Telephone Excise Tax Refund through the Free File Alliance web site.

“The best part of this year’s program is that we have student volunteers to get the word out and to help taxpayers log on and use the computers at the Tax Assistance Events so they can do their taxes quickly, accurately, and for free,� Intuit CEO Bennett said.

“Free File Alliance members have donated tens of millions of free returns to taxpayers, and helped millions of people claim the returns they are entitled to, and all for free,� CCIA’s Black added.

CCIA is a nonprofit membership organization for a wide range of companies in the computer, Internet, information technology, and telecommunications industries, represented by their senior executives.


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