October 21, 2021

County residents can still get tax assistance

Cortland County residents still looking to file their tax returns may want to look for Raimona Rowe on Saturdays in the parking lot of KeyBank in Cortland as she will continue to help prepare and file their tax returns until May.

Rowe is the site coordinator of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program of Cortland County, a program that helps with free services for people who made under $57,000 in 2020 along with other free services including federal and state tax preparation and filing, direct deposit and copies of the documents.

Rowe said Monday that she will likely be helping people file up until May 1, a little more than two weeks before the extension deadline this year of May 17 instead of Thursday.

“This continues to be a tough time for many people, and the IRS wants to continue to do everything possible to help taxpayers navigate the unusual circumstances related to the pandemic, while also working on important tax administration responsibilities,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig in a release last month announcing the extension.

People can pick up information packets at Access to Independence of Cortland County Inc., the YWCA in Cortland, Cortland Chenango Rural Services Inc., the Truxton Liquor Store and the Lamont Memorial Free Library in McGraw, Rowe said.

Once collected, the forms are filled out by a volunteer and then are reviewed for errors by another volunteer. All volunteers have to pass an Internal Revenue Service test before they can help with returns. From there, the information is reviewed with the filer.

Each year, she usually gets around 600 to 700 people filing with her, Rowe said. This year, there have been about 400 to 500 people who have filed.

“I don’t think it’s going to change our numbers,” Rowe said about the extension.

While the deadline to file has been extended to May 17, “It’s always smart to file as early as you can,” said Mark Steber, the chief tax information officer at Jackson Hewitt.

Steber noted that 2020 was a complicated year as the pandemic changed people’s lives, how they work and other areas.

Filing taxes also changed somewhat because of it, especially for people who received unemployment benefits and new child tax credit increases.

These included people with children 6 and under receiving $3,600 and people with children ages 7 to 17 receiving up to $3,000 in child tax credits.

While this extension is nice for people who need it, Steber said the IRS already offers extensions of up to six months for people to file taxes. Payment on taxes due, though, remain May 17.

He also noted that filing as soon as possible means getting refunds quicker and prevents potential scammers filing in your name.

“There’s really no reason you would need to wait this year or any year,” he said.