Taxpayers should have already received their W-2 income statements for 2011, and other necessary statements from their financial institutions. The New York State Tax Department has tools for filing 2011 tax returns on the Department's Web site at: www.tax.ny.gov.
Each year, more and more New Yorkers discover the convenience of e-filing tax returns - it's easy, fast, safe, and most taxpayers are doing it. In fact, 80% of taxpayers e-filed their New York State returns for tax year 2010. E-filing saves taxpayer dollars on processing costs associated with paper returns, nearly $50 million last year alone.
Tax tip: Taxpayers should check if they qualify for FreeFile, free tax preparation and e-filing software. Through FreeFile, taxpayers can prepare and file online their federal and state income tax returns at no cost. Generally, those who earned $57,000 or less in 2011 may be eligible. In 2010, FreeFile use increased by 32% as compared with the prior tax year. However, many more taxpayers are eligible. Visit the New York State Tax Department's website for eligibility requirements.
Last year, there was a marked increase in the rate for issuing refunds. The total number of refunds issued in less than 30 days increased by 46%. Nearly 77% of refunds issued in less than 30 days were for e-filed returns, as compared with just 58% for paper-filed returns.
Tax tip: To speed up a refund, taxpayers should e-file, and do it early in the filing season. Track the status of a refund on the Tax Department's Web site.
Each year, the Tax Department publishes "Instructions for Form IT-201." In addition to providing straightforward tax filing instructions, the booklet offers helpful guidance. Taxpayers can print just the pages they need.
Tax tip: Look at tax credit eligibility. There are over two dozen different tax-saving credits. Some credits may be new to some taxpayers. There are credits for college tuition, long-term care insurance and solar energy systems. The earned income tax credit continues to be available to low to moderate income working individuals and families who qualify.
New refund option - debit cards
There are multiple ways to receive refunds. Direct deposit to personal bank accounts remains the fastest and easiest method. This year, there is a new option - the pre-paid debit card. The card is secure, easy to use and flexible. In most instances, there's no charge for using the card to make cash withdrawals or purchases.
Tax tip: Taxpayers who don't have a bank account can avoid check-cashing fees by opting for a debit card.
The Marriage Equality Act, which took effect in July of 2011, provides that all marriages, whether of same or different-sex couples, will be treated equally under the laws of New York State. This year marks the first time in our state's history that same-sex married couples will file jointly.
To file New York State returns, same-sex married couples should complete, but not submit, a federal return (including all credit forms, schedules, and other attachments) as married. They should then transfer the information from the federal return to properly complete the New York State return. Then each same sex spouse should individually file with the IRS to meet the federal government's requirement.
Tax tip: E-filing (including FreeFile) can simplify the process for same-sex married couples. Most tax preparation software programs will prompt taxpayers with questions that will accommodate the different federal and state requirements.
This year, the filing deadline is April 17. This is due to April 15 falling on a Sunday and April 16 being Emancipation Day, which is observed in the District of Columbia. By law, District of Columbia holidays and federal holidays give taxpayers an extra day to file.
Free In-Person Tax Preparation
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites are open across the State to help individuals and families with an annual income of $50,000 or less prepare and file their income tax returns free of charge. Visit the New York State Tax Department's Website to find a location including days and hours of operation.
This time next year New Yorkers will be filing their income taxes under the lowest tax brackets for middle class taxpayers in fifty-eight years. Governor Cuomo's overhaul of the tax code reduced the tax rate for at least 4.4 million middle class taxpayers, as compared with 2011. Many taxpayers should already see less tax withheld in their paychecks.
Most answers to questions can be found on-line. Taxpayers can also call 518.457.5181.