PHOTO: State Sen. Addabbo is urging the state to reactivate a toll-free tax helpline that was shutdown in 2011. Photo Courtesy of NYS Senate
One area elected official is calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to re-create the toll-free phone number for the defunct tax-assistance helpline so the state Department of Taxation and Finance can better address related inquiries from residents across New York.
In a letter sent to Cuomo last week, state Sen. Joe Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach) focused on the need for an 800 number to be reactivated to provide assistance and walk New Yorkers through filling out and submitting tax forms. While the state had provided a toll-free helpline like this in the past, it was shut down in 2011, during the heart of the recession, Addabbo noted.
Many residents complete and file their annual state income taxes themselves, especially those who cannot afford to hire a professional, and often have questions about the process, Addabbo said. He also mentioned that many of his constituents don’t have access to the internet, and some call the state agency out of necessity or for comfort. In order to get these questions answered, Addabbo said, a number of residents can only reach Taxation and Finance by calling an Albany-based number, with a 518 area code, no matter where they reside in the state. For anyone who resides outside of the capitol region, this can result in high long-distance charges on their phone bill.
“Tax season is stressful enough, and forcing residents to worry about how they will pay for a long-distance phone call just to get help with mandatory tax forms or related questions certainly does not make it any easier,” Addabbo said. “Aside from tax season, throughout the year our current system unfairly punishes New Yorkers who live outside of Albany with costly calls placed to a 518 number, especially when that call can at times become lengthy because of high demand, long wait times and subject matter. The rest of our state should not be placed at a disadvantage when it comes to getting help. This only deters residents from calling for assistance and can therefore lead to incorrect tax forms or misinformation being submitted, only prolonging the process for the individual and for the state.”
By Forum Staff