Commentary

Some New Jersey residents have access to free income tax services

March 17, 2022 6:47 am

We’re quickly nearing the end of tax season. This year, many more New Jerseyans will qualify for larger tax refunds than ever before. But as with every year, too many state residents will miss out on tax credits they deserve, and crucial financial help, simply because they lack the time or expertise to file a comprehensive tax return.  

Filing taxes can be complicated and daunting. Fortunately, there are organizations that can make it a lot less complicated and daunting for those who need help. New Jersey Citizen Action and other organizations throughout our state like the United Way of Northern New Jersey offer Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) services for eligible state residents. There are several important reasons to use these services.  

VITA services are free 

That’s not a misprint. VITA sites offer the services of trained tax professionals for free to eligible taxpayers and households under certain income thresholds — most sites in New Jersey have thresholds of $65,000 or $73,000 per year, though the exact amount depends on the grant funding for a particular site. Resident and non-resident aliens who file taxes under Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers can be eligible as well.  

You could go to a for-profit tax filing service. But why pay up to several hundred dollars to file your tax return when you can have it done for free? 

There are more tax credits than ever before 

New tax filing rules mean bigger tax refunds than ever before for New Jersey residents. The state and federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which reduces the taxes owed and/or increases refunds for low- to moderate-income earners, has greatly expanded eligibility this year. Some individuals and households could see refunds as high as between $5,000 and $7,000; low-income workers without any children can receive federal refunds of up to $1,500. 

Some new EITC rules this year include: 

  • The lowering of the minimum age for the federal EITC to 19, without qualifying children. For the state of New Jersey that starts at age 18
  • Married couples filing separately can now claim EITC if they did not live with their spouses for the last six months of 2021 and have a qualifying child
  • Allowing 2019 income to be used on a 2021 tax return 

There’s also the federal Child Tax Credit (CTC), which last year credited parents with between $3,000 or $3,600 per child, depending on the age of the child. All eligible families could receive the full credit if they made less than $150,000 for a married couple, or $112,500 for a single parent in 2021.  

But most families only received part of their CTC as monthly payments last year, and some received no payments at all. You can receive your full CTC when you file your federal taxes, and it has no impact on other federal benefits.  

A trained VITA professional can help you navigate these new rules, and many others, for free. 

VITA services can help you avoid tax scams 

Unfortunately, there are fraudsters and scam artists who will try to steal your identity or your money during tax season. Scams can come in the form of calls, texts, and social media messages. Stay vigilant and guard your personal information, including your social security number and bank information.  

The IRS will never call, text, or email you and demand immediate payment, or call, text, or email you and ask for your personal or financial information. If you are approached in this way, it’s a scam. 

Time is ticking for the April 18th tax filing deadline! For more information about New Jersey Citizen Action’s VITA services, click here or call 1-888-829-3711. For more information on other VITA sites throughout the state, click here. 

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Naomi Anderson
Naomi Anderson

Naomi Anderson is director for New Jersey Citizen Action’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) services. New Jersey Citizen Action is a statewide advocacy and empowerment organization that advances social, racial, and economic justice for all, while also meeting the pressing needs of low- and moderate-income New Jerseyans through education and direct services.

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