Today, Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Thomas H. Mattox announced improvements that benefited taxpayers during the 2011 income tax filing season. Among the enhancements were increased assistance for low and middle-income families, faster refund processing, safer refund methods, easier filing options, and more "Free Filed" returns.
Commissioner Mattox said, "With two months since the filing season ended on April 17, more than 99% of the taxpayers who are eligible for refunds have received them. This compares to just ten years ago when, at this point in the year, millions of refunds were still waiting to be issued. These and other improvements are a result of our Department-wide efforts to make it easier for taxpayers to do business with us."
In fact, this year more refunds were paid earlier than ever before. By the filing deadline, more than 1 million more refunds (worth $730 million) were issued compared to the same time last year - a 29% increase. This meant more taxpayers had their refunds in hand faster to save or spend as they choose.
In addition to refunds being the earliest in history this year, they were also safer. Of the 6.1 million refunds that have been issued, almost 70% were either direct deposited into bank accounts or delivered via a new debit card option. Both of these options are far safer than paper checks, and the debit card provides an excellent no-cost option for taxpayers without bank accounts. Paper checks are down 15% from last year.
Aid for low and middle-income New Yorkers
New York has one of the most generous Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) programs in the nation. This year, the Department paid 1.5 million EITC claims for a total of nearly $1 billion.
The EITC is available to working New Yorkers whose income meets certain standards relative to the number of children in their family. The vast majority of the benefits - 94% - go to families with children. The average credit for a family with two children is $940. The credit is refundable, meaning not only does it offset a filer's tax liability, but can dramatically increase the taxpayer's refund.
On top of its year-round taxpayer outreach program, this year the Department launched a series of EITC summits. The summits, which included EITC stakeholders, are being held statewide with the goal of increasing participation in the program and responding to taxpayer needs. As a result of the summits, the Department was able to reduce the burden on EITC applicants, while enhancing the program's instructions and increasing its transparency.
Making it easier to do business with New York State
"This year, a record number of taxpayers - nearly 9.2 million - filed their income tax returns by the deadline." Commissioner Mattox added. "This is likely the result of increases in e-filing and Free Filing, and the expansion of our online services."
More New Yorkers than ever before e-filed their income tax returns this year. Of 9.23 million returns, 87% were e-filed - a 10% increase over last year. E-filing is the safest way to file, the fastest way to receive a refund, and saves New York taxpayers $50 million annually. For those who need to file paper returns, the forms are available online or can be requested by telephone. There is no fee for paper filing.
By accessing Free File from the Department's Web site, taxpayers with incomes of less than $57,000 can file both their state and federal returns at no cost. Free File usage increased 16% over last year, but the Department estimates that there are still millions of taxpayers who are eligible for this service.
In addition, the Department also offers dozens of online services that make doing business with us faster and simpler. In fact, of the 1.2 million online account holders, more than half are businesses that can now perform virtually all of their tax transactions on the Department's Web site.
Lowest middle-income tax rates in 58 years
All New Yorkers are now benefitting from lower tax rates. The new 2012 rates were signed into law in December by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and are the lowest tax rates for middle-income New Yorkers in 58 years.
Individuals who file estimated income tax payments and employees who have their income taxes withheld are keeping more of their hard-earned dollars as a result of the new, lower tax rates. The lower rates went into effect in January.
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