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Queensboro lends a hand to tax-illiterate immigrants

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To lend a helping hand this tax season, Queensborough Community College is launching a program to help low-income and immigrant taxpayers file their returns by Tax Day, April 15. The Taxpayer Outreach Program at Queensborough, called Q-TOP, will be based in the Bayside school's library. Though the program will not actually prepare tax returns, staffers will answer questions, give referrals to reputable accountants and provide translations in Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese, and Spanish. The public is encouraged to make appointments by calling the Q-TOP director and QCC accounting professor, Dr. Kevin Kelly. Public officials hailed the new program as vital assistance for those who may not understand the importance of filing an accurate return, or that free help is available."There are places that urge people to come in and they will do your taxes, so people go in thinking they'll get their tax return done," said Betsy Gotbaum, the city's public advocate. "They end up paying money for something that is free.""Community organizations very often offer free tax preparation," said City Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis), who invited the public to contact his office for a list of such organizations. In addition, the program will promote the city's new earned income credit, which began last year and is available to New York city residents who are eligible for a federal earned income tax credit and have also filed a state income tax return."A lot of people in society think of government as only taking away money," Weprin said. But the motto for the city's new campaign to promote the city earned income tax credit was billed as "It's your money, come and get it," he noted."I applaud your learning more on tax credits, and I encourage you to take what's yours," Weprin said."The major benefit to low-income families means more money in their pocket" with the city tax credit, Kelly said. He said the program will include presentations at numerous other civic organizations and public facilities, such as the Elmhurst Library and the Queens County Adult Learner Programs, in order to increase awareness of their services before April 15. More students are being recruited for translation services, he added, with Korean services slated for the next few months. Kelly, who is also a certified public accountant and lawyer, said he would refer people to free services and would be available to answer questions."Our mission is to provide the tools for individuals to enter and take advantage of our society," said Queensborough President Dr. Eduardo Marti. "Tax preparation, as small as it may look, is part of that."Councilman David Weprin's office (718) 465-8202Queensborough Community College Q-TOP222-05 56th Ave.Bayside, NY (718) 631-6256kkelly@qcc.cuny.eduReach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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