Northern Manhattanites line up to file their taxes early
by Marisol Rodríguez
News agencies from all over the United States are reporting on what appears to be a national rush to file 2008 income tax forms by a public that faces one of the worst economic crises in decades. With a national unemployment rate of 8.1 percent according to the U. S. Department of Labor, tax return money is one of few reliable sources of economic relief for many.
In Northern Manhattan, a number of local tax centers are seeing a similar trend of taxpayers filing their 2008 returns early.
Mejia Tirado co-owner Martiza Mejia has seen this among the clientele she services at her Broadway and W. 190th Street multi-service business, one of the many like it in Northern Manhattan that serve not only as tax centers but travel agencies and insurance brokerages. Mejia also mentioned the noticeable increase in unemployed clients filing taxes.
Meche Moscoso, supervisor at Quisqueyana, another multi-service business located on Dyckman Street, said she sees the increase of people filing early as a direct result of the economic crisis. “People need their money early, for things like going to the supermarket,” Moscoso said.
Typically, the busiest time of the tax season runs from the end of January until early February. These hectic weeks for accountants are followed by a slow period that picks up again at the end of March till the day taxes are due on April 15.
However, this year tax centers in Northern Manhattan and around the country reported more clients coming in to file income taxes during early January, soon after they received their W-2 forms, a vital document for filing taxes.
According to Beverly Susan Carter, office manager of an H&R Block office located on Broadway near W. 165th Street, an increase in customers filing their taxes early has resulted in the submission of incomplete income tax forms.
Carter noted that people are so eager to get their refund checks, they don’t wait until they have received every single one of their W-2 forms before filing for their tax return.
“In one instance a person came in 20 minutes [after their forms were originally processed] with more tax documents that the person claimed they forgot they had,” said Carter. It’s not only more work for the accountant to amend the individual’s forms, but it is also costly to the individual, who has to pay for any necessary changes to their tax forms, added Carter.
There are some Northern Manhattan tax businesses that have not seen such dramatic differences in when individuals show up for income tax preparation services. At Jackson Hewitt on W. 207th Street, employee Claudia Mena said there hasn’t been a significant change in clientele behavior from last year.
At Express Tax Service on Broadway and W. 164th Street, principal agent Emmanuel Osuyah said the only change this tax season has brought to his business is a decrease in customers seeking tax help. Osuyah said the number of clients he services has gone down from 500 to a couple of hundred because, he believes, many of them have moved out of the city to places like Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
Osuyah also attributes fewer clients to the increased competition in available income tax preparation services.
“The tax business used to be something that people go to someone they trust,” said Osuyah. “Now it’s become something that people can do anywhere – online, with software, at free [tax] centers.”
As the tax season continues, tax payers may be wondering how President Barack Obama’s stimulus plan, recently passed by Congress, will affect their tax returns. The plan includes various provisions on tax credits, however, it is the Making Work Pay tax credit that will put money back in people’s pockets the quickest.
Starting in mid-2009, Making Work Pay will provide a refundable tax credit of up to $400 for individuals earning an income of less than $75,000 and $800 for married couples making a combined income of less than $150,000 and filing joint tax returns.