The New York State Tax Department today reminded Western New York residents of two free income tax services available to eligible taxpayers:

• Taxpayers with incomes below $50,000 can take advantage of free income tax preparation by visiting one of many Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites throughout the region.

• Taxpayers with incomes of less than $57,000 who prefer to file from their home computers are eligible to electronically file their income taxes at no cost with “Free File.”

VITA Sites

VITA sites help individuals and families with an annual income of $50,000 or less prepare and e-file their income tax returns free of charge.

There are 54 VITA locations in the Western Region (see county list below). To find the closest community site, taxpayers can use the Tax Department’s online VITA Locator: www.tax.ny.gov. Many of the sites require appointments, so taxpayers should call in advance.

VITA volunteers are trained in all areas of tax preparation. They are well-versed in helping taxpayers understand whether they qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit. They also may elect to complete prior year returns and amended returns.

The Tax Department estimates that 96% of VITA site-prepared returns were error free last season, compared to the national average of 87%. The VITA sites are coordinated by the Internal Revenue Service. Throughout New York State there are nearly 500 such sites.

Free File

Many taxpayers also qualify for the state’s Free File service, allowing them to file both state and federal returns from their home computers at no cost. Eligibility requirements vary, but generally the service is available to taxpayers earning $57,000 or less.

Free File is very user-friendly; users don’t have to have tax or computer expertise to use the service. Free File also reduces the number of errors on a tax return because the software can catch and correct common mistakes.

Taxpayers should be sure to Free File both state and federal returns from the New York State Tax Department Web site, not any other site: www.tax.ny.gov Accessing “free file” options via other Web sites can result in unexpected charges. By accessing Free File from the department’s Web site, taxpayers can file both their federal and state returns free.

Deadline

Taxpayers have until April 17 to file their personal income tax returns this year.