Across the city, eligible New Yorkers are getting their taxes done free. For many, it is the moment they learn if they will be getting a refund.
“When they get a refund, for many New Yorkers, this is a largest amount of money that they may be getting all at one time,” says Alba Pico, Acting Commissioner of the Department of Consumer Affairs.
It is also the perfect moment to steer unbanked New Yorkers into the banking system. Irene Baldwin is the executive director of Ariva, which operates a free tax prep site inside Spring Bank's Concourse location. While she says 80 percent of the clients they serve do have bank accounts, 20 percent do not. Her goal is to get those 20 percent to open accounts right there as their taxes are being done.
“Last year I think we were able to open 300 accounts at this site and that’s 300 people that are now banked that weren’t,” Baldwin says.
That process is now even smoother thanks to the IDNYC card. It not only serves as the photo ID needed to file your taxes, it also helps unlock a world of banking that may have previously been unavailable.
“Lots of people are getting the ID card,” says Nisha Agarwal, Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs. “I think we have more than 770,000 people in New York who have the card and one of the things we want to do is get the word out that we have financial partners where you can open a bank account.”
“Well many of the people that come here may have a problem with ID,” says Eric Pallas, president of Spring Bank. “They may not have a standard driver’s license and so with this ID, we are reaching a bunch of the public that would not have any other way to get an account."
Opening an account can prove immensely helpful when it comes to that all-important refund.
Short term, tax prep volunteers can have the refund direct deposited into the newly opened account, which the IRS says is the fastest way to get your money. Long term, having that account gives individuals more control over their cash flow and that can make all the difference to their financial well-being.
“If they put some money on the side and they open a savings account, they could make that money grow,” Pico says.
“Well if you have a bank account it helps you build credit,” Baldwin says. “It makes your everyday transactions easier. It keeps you away from predators and fringe services. I mean it is just a normal part of life to have a bank account.”
For more information about IDNYC, visit nyc.gov.
Click here to learn about free tax prep services and locations.