The nation's tax season kicked off Monday, when the Internal Revenue Service begins accepting electronic tax returns.
Taxes may not be due until Tuesday, April 18, but New Yorkers — especially those who are from low-income families or 60+ years of age — can get jump start on them with a wealth of free tax preparation assistance.
Here are some organizations offering complimentary instruction to make filing a little easier:
► Public Libraries
If you've earned $64,000 or less over the past year, you may qualify for free tax assistance at the New York Public Library. Starting Jan. 23, many NYPL branches will offer computer access and IRS-trained volunteers to help you file your income tax returns online for free. You can check out the list of participating libraries, the kinds of services they provide and the hours they provide them here.
Sessions at these locations and times, provided by the AARP, are geared in particular toward taxpayers ages 50 and older.
The Brooklyn Public Library will also offer assistance for individuals making $60,000 or less a year at seven locations, starting Jan. 23.
► Food Bank for New York City
Individuals who make $54,000 or less with dependents or $30,000 or less without dependents can qualify for the Food Bank’s free income tax service. The Food Bank will help taxpayers determine if they're eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which is worth up to $8,463.
The nonprofit has three tax preparation sites this year, one in Central Harlem, a second in Downtown Brooklyn and a third in Jackson Heights.
► New York City Department of Consumer Affairs
You can find the site that's most convenient for you by calling 311, searching this interactive map or texting "taxes" to 42033. There you can sit down with IRS-certified volunteers in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs to prepare your tax return, or drop off your documents and pick up a completed return later.
The DCA's program puts an emphasis on educating taxpayers about the credits they may qualify: the EITC and the New York City Child Care Tax Credit, which helps cover child care expenses for children ages 4 and under.
This is the first year that the city is offering tax prep services in Hindi, Urdu, Nepali and Tibetan, through the Chhaya Community Development Corporation in Jackson Heights, and two texting programs. One notifies filers checking in at the busiest sites when their turn is up; another provides subscribers tax season information, reminders and updates.
► H&R Block
The well-known tax prep company H&R Block offers a free edition of its online tax filing program. It guides users through the process with a step-by-step Q&A, a “refund reveal” feature that explains why your refund is swelling and contracting throughout the process, and an accuracy review before you file.
H&R Block's website also offers free access to tools like tax and W-4 calculators to compute your refund, and explanatory articles and FAQ pages on subjects such as tax credits and audits.