According to a new change in tax law passed by Congress in December 2015, the IRS cannot issue refunds before February 15, 2017 for all tax returns claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC). The IRS must hold the entire refund — not just the portion with the credits — until at least February 15. This change helps ensure that taxpayers get the refund they are owed by giving the agency more time to help detect and prevent fraud.
Many low and middle income families that are eligible for these tax credits rely on filing and receiving their refund as early as possible and often plan to address pressing financial needs with these refunds. Although information is widely available about the refund delay, many households may be surprised by this change which could make them more likely to turn to predatory lenders promising early refunds that are actually payday loans. As advocates, it’s important to spread the word of these changes so taxpayers are aware and can properly prepare, if necessary. Here are some facts and tips to help prepare taxpayers:
- Taxpayers should go ahead and file as soon as they have all of their tax information. There is no advantage to waiting until closer to February 15.
- The delay only applies to taxpayers eligible for EITC and/or additional CTC. Tax payers not receiving these credits will receive their refund within normal processing time frames.
- There are no exceptions. No paid tax preparer can get one of the affected refunds from IRS any faster. Tax payers should be wary of any paid preparer that claims the tax payer can access their refund before February 15
- Encourage tax payers to plan now for the delay. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has released a set of tools designed to help individuals, families, and tax preparers deal with dilemmas like mounting bills, responding to debt collectors and effectively planning a schedule to pay outstanding balances
- Taxpayers should NOT file without the EITC/ACTC just to get withholding back and then later file an amended return to get the credits. Filing an amended return requires additional tax preparation and can take months to process
- Encourage tax payers to avoid potential predatory preparers and complete their taxes for free through a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. Households with incomes less that $54,000 in 2016 may be eligible and can call 516-505-4424 for more information or to schedule an appointment
Last week we wrote about key issues still on the table in the waning days of the legislative session. Lawmakers worked into the wee hours of Saturday morning and below is an update on where those key issues stand now:
Ethics: The agreement would strip state pensions from public officials convicted of corruption which requires a change to New York’s Constitution that would have to be approved by voters. The proposed amendment will be voted on again next year before it can go to voters for approval. The agreement also strengthens prohibitions on political campaigns’ ability to coordinate with independent expenditure committees; changes disclosure rules to require political consultants to identify clients and expands reporting requirements to cover smaller lobbying efforts.
Heroin: The Senate and Assembly passed a package of bills introduced by Cuomo to address the scourge of heroin abuse and opioid deaths in New York. The package would make about a dozen changes in state law and regulations. including limiting the supply of opioids that can be prescribed to patient; prohibiting insurers from requiring prior authorization for heroin treatment; and allowing families to get a three-day, involuntary hold for addicted loved ones in treatment facilities. Patients can also now go for 14 days of treatment instead of only 7 without prior approval from their health insurance carrier.
Fantasy sports – A bill legalizing online daily fantasy sports was approved by the Assembly and Senate and now awaits the Governor’s signature.
“Brunch” bill – The bill will enable restaurants to sell alcohol at 10 a.m. on Sundays to accommodate brunches, ending a century-old blue law tradition. The deal also allows restaurants to get up to 12 waivers a year to sell booze at 8 a.m. on Sundays in areas outside New York City.
Lead testing for water – A bill was passed that would require the state departments of health and education to set testing and safety standards for public school tap water and require schools to report the results to the state.
The effort would be largely funded by the state through its school building aid formula.
Other notable legislation:
Safety Net Hospitals: the bill changes the definition of safety net hospitals so that an enhanced Medicaid rate will be available to those hospitals where at least half the patients are on Medicaid or are uninsured.
Step Therapy: The bill changes so-called ”fail first” protocols that health insurers use when it comes to prescription medications. Under ”fail first” a patient is supposed try several attempts at responding to a formulary or prescribed medication approved by an insurer before moving on to try what could a costlier drug. The bill, which is awaiting the Governor’s signature, creates a clear appeals process for doctors who feel that ”fail first” isn’t helping their patients.
Community Health Advocates (CHA) is the Consumer Voice for health care access – and it needs your help.
CHA will have to cut services by 25% without an additional $1.5 million in funding from the Legislature.
YOU CAN SAVE CHA!
Send a message to your legislators now!
CHA helps New Yorkers:
- Understand how to use their health insurance;
- Resolve billing issues and coverage denials with their health plans;
- Maximize their coverage (get prior authorizations, access specialists and obtain out-of-network services when needed);
- Access affordable health care services and hospital financial assistance programs; and
- Understand how small business owners can offer health insurance and get health insurance tax credits.
Since 2010 the CHA helpline and network of community based organizations has completed over 239,000 cases for New Yorkers across the state. CHA has saved New Yorkers close to $15 million in health care and health insurance costs.
CHA has an annual budget of $4 million. Governor Cuomo included $2.5 million for CHA in the state budget this year, leaving a $1.5 million gap to keep CHA services at their current level. You can help make sure your legislators provide and support funding for this critical program!
The current federal child nutrition program law, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 expired on September 30, 2015. Up for a vote every five years, the Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization (CNR) constitutes legislation that oversees child nutrition programs including school breakfast and lunch programs, summer meals, afterschool meal programs and WIC. Essential to children’s development and health, child nutrition programs provide children from low-income families access to low-cost or free nutritional meals during the school year and summer months. Although the bill has expired, it will continue in its current form until it is reauthorized.
Several bills have been introduced in Congress that could potentially become part of the final reauthorization, including The Summer Meals Act of 2015 (S. 163, H.R. 1728) sponsored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. The Summer Meals Act of 2015 (S. 163, H.R. 1728) aims to strengthen, protect and expand access to summer nutrition programs. Currently, a summer meal site can participate in the federal Summer Meals Program if more than 50 percent of children in the community are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals as defined by school or census data. This threshold excludes many communities from participating in the program. The Summer Meals Act of 2015 would improve this area eligibility test so communities with 40 percent or more children receiving free or reduced-price meals would qualify. Consequently, millions of low-income children would gain access to summer meal programs if Congress lowers this threshold. Click here to see the impact in New York if Congress lowered the eligibility test from 50 percent to 40 percent. In addition, the bill would allow sites to serve a third meal, provide funding for transportation grants, and streamline the process of providing meals during both the school year and the summer months.
According to the Long Island Index, in 2013, approximately 21 percent of students on Long Island received free school lunch while nearly 73 percent of students in high-poverty schools on Long Island received free lunch. Improving the area eligibility test would increase access to summer meals for children on Long Island living in these pockets of higher poverty.
You can help us make a difference for children in need in Nassau and Suffolk and throughout the country— Take Action Today!
- Call your members of Congress and encourage them to support bills such as the Summer Meals Act of 2015
- Create buzz on social media by sharing photos of your summer meal sites and tagging your Members of Congress to ask for their support of #summermeals #SummerMealsAct and a strong #CNR2015