People whose household income was less than $55,000 in 2018 can have their tax returns prepared free of charge by an IRS-certified tax preparer, thanks to a taxpayer assistance program offered by the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island.

The Virtual Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program has been providing tax preparation assistance to Long Islanders for four years, Health and Welfare Council president Rebecca Sanin said today.

Nearly 40 percent of Long Islanders are barely making ends meet and have no savings to cover an emergency expense, Sanin said. Many families rely on tax refunds to catch up on bills or put money into savings, she said, and with recent changes to the federal tax law, people who have gotten refunds in the past are finding that they owe money to the IRS or state tax department, Sanin said.

Expert tax preparers can help taxpayers ensure they are minimizing tax liabilities and maximizing refunds, she said.

The Virtual VITA helped Long Islanders secure over $400,000 in tax refunds last year and saved Long Islanders more than $200,000 in tax preparer fees, she said.

“Whether you’re a recent graduate, a senior citizen or anywhere in between, come see us,” Sanin said.

The organization is expanding the program this year to sites across the East End.

Taxpayers meet with HWCLI staff at one of the participating sites, including Riverhead Free Library. They must bring their social security card, valid photo ID and all 2018 tax documents. HWCLI staff scan and the documents to the organization’s secure online system and help taxpayers complete the intake forms. The in-person session will take no more than 20 minutes, Sanin said.

An offsite tax preparer will call the taxpayer within three business days to complete their tax return. The return can be signed by the taxpayer on a smart phone or tablet, if available, or signed at the site where the intake meeting took place.

HCWLI staff will be at the Riverhead library every Tuesday and Thursday from Feb. 12 through April 11, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

An appointment is required. Appointments can be made by calling Riverhead Free Library at 631-727-3228.

Other HCWCLI intake sites for the tax prep assistance program on the East End are:

Community Action Southold Town in Greenport on Feb. 8, 22, March 8 and 22 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Call 631-477-1717 for an appointment);

Cutchogue Library on March 1 and 15 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (631-734-6360);

Shelter Island Library on March 23, 11 a.m. (631-749-0042);

Southold Library on Feb. 13 and 27, March 6 and 13, from 1 to 4 p.m. (631-765-2077); and

Hampton Library in Bridgehampton on March 2 and 9 and April 5, from 11:30 to 4 p.m. (631-537-0015).

HWCLI will also have staff at the Family Service League’s William Floyd Family Center in Mastic Beach on Feb. 6 and 20, March 20 and April 3 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (631-425-9694).

The Virtual Vita program is supported by grants from BNB Bank, Citibank, Bank of America and Capital One.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.