NYSSCPA Panels Help Public Make Sense of Tax Issues

By:
Maya Lindsay
Published Date:
May 5, 2015
Tax Panels
NYSSCPA members field calls at the New York Daily News.

Though taxpayers had a hard time getting answers from the IRS this year—the trouble-plagued service said it could respond only to a fraction of the calls it received—some got just the help they needed, thanks to a long-standing NYSSCPA tradition.

From February to March, NYSSCPA members throughout the state dispensed free income tax advice to residents and small business owners, as part of the Society’s annual volunteer tax panels.

The program, now more than three decades old, was cosponsored by three newspapers—Westchester’s Journal News, the New York Daily News and the Poughkeepsie Journalwhich hosted NYSSCPA volunteers at their offices and covered the panels in their online and print publications. The sessions were organized with the help of NYSSCPA members from the Manhattan/Bronx, Mid Hudson, Queens/ Brooklyn, Rockland and Westchester chapters.

A public-service outreach initiative for the Society, the tax panels are an important opportunity for CPAs to strengthen their connections to local communities and demonstrate their value to the public, said NYSSCPA President Scott M. Adair.

“Taxpayers don’t just get practical advice from these panels,” he said. “They walk away with a greater understanding of the wealth of knowledge a CPA has.”

New York Daily News

On March 18 and 19, members from the Queens/Brooklyn, Manhattan/Bronx, Nassau and Westchester chapters gathered at the Daily News’s lower-Manhattan headquarters for what has traditionally been the Society’s largest tax panel in the state. In an office dotted with 19th century pictures of New York City landmarks, they answered 200 questions over a period of six hours, via telephone and online chat.  

One of the most frequently asked questions was about the New York City Enhanced Real Property Tax Credit, which is available to qualified city residents who have a household gross income of less than $200,000 and pay either real property taxes or rent. Since the credit is new, several callers wanted to know if they qualified for it.

Still, as Vincent Cervone, a hotline volunteer since 2003, pointed out, questions tended to differ depending on whether they came through the phone lines or were submitted online.

“I noticed that most of the callers were older and had questions related to their Social Security, pension and/or disability,” Cervone said. “When I answered questions via the online chat, people were much younger, and the questions varied.”

The hotline’s second day drew several first-time volunteers, including Rumbidzai N. Bwerinofa-Petrozzello and Carmelina Hernandez.   

“This is something that I would definitely consider doing next year,” Hernandez added.

Volunteers: 

  • Adam Baruch
  • Stace N. Balitsos
  • Sheila Brandenberg
  • Rumbidzai N. Bwerinofa-Petrozzello
  • Vincent Cervone
  • Aiko Chan
  • Patrick R. Colabella
  • Vincent J. Cosenza
  • Carmelina Hernandez
  • Johnathan M. Horn
  • Sam M. Kearton
  • Anil R. Melwani
  • Joseph Nacmias
  • Avery E. Neumark
  • Sam Paltielov
  • Barry C. Picker
  • I. Jay Safier
  • Elliot Schwartz
  • Steven Shinder
  • Stephen Smith         
  • Lewis J. Taub
  • Brett  Walitt


Journal News

Nine volunteers from the Westchester Chapter participated in the Journal News’s tax hotline on Feb. 28, answering questions for four hours at the paper’s headquarters. Callers sought information on a wide range of topics, from tax liability under the Affordable Care Act to the possible tax benefits available for parents of college students. All told, “we had about 75 calls [that] were constantly coming in at a good volume throughout the day,” said Robert M. Winton, a Westchester Chapter board member.

Volunteers:

  • Peter D. Brown
  • Karen C. Coniglio
  • Phil D’Angelo
  • Ronald B. Hegt
  • Susan R. Kozera
  • Kristin Krauskopf
  • William Minoff
  • Jason I. Roif
  • Steven Shinder 

 

Poughkeepsie Journal

In a final effort to offer free assistance before the close of tax season, the NYSSCPA’s Mid Hudson and Rockland Chapters partnered with the Poughkeepsie Journal for a two-hour “Dial-a-CPA” night on March 25. Volunteers fielded nearly three dozen questions. In addition to taking phone calls, they also provided answers via a live chat session on the newspaper’s Facebook page. Questions ran the gamut, covering hot topics, like the Affordable Care Act, as well as basics, like whether pensions are included on tax returns. One caller even had a tax question about her diet: Because she suffers from celiac disease and must ensure that whatever she consumes is gluten-free, she asked if she could, for example, deduct a new set of kitchen utensils that she needed in order to avoid contamination in her family’s home. The answer? Yes, according to James F. Passikoff, who told her to make sure she kept the receipts.

 

Volunteers:

  • Brian DiFilippo
  • Petra Hermstein 
  • James F. Passikoff
  • Glenn A. Noakes
  • Donald R. Sagliano

 

                                                                                                                           mlindsay@nysscpa.org

 


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