Governor’s tax assistance programs a success in Ocean County

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For the homeowners, renters and business owners who endured damage from Superstorm Sandy in October, there is a lot of information out there, and much of it is wrong, said Hedy Falcetta, Little Egg Harbor.

To get the correct information into residents hands, NJ Governor Chris Christie organized a series of tax assistance events in areas that were hardest hit by the Superstorm. The Toms River library branch hosted the second of three such events held in Ocean County Monday, March 18.

“The events have been held in Bergen, Monmouth and Ocean counties,” said Jennifer D’Autrechy, Deputy Chief of Staff in the State Treasurer’s Office. “We have reached hundreds of people through these events.”

Marita Sciarrotta, Assistant Chief of the State Division of Taxation’s Collection and Enforcement Activity, said nearly 100 people preregistered for the Toms River session but more than 140 people attended.

“This is the largest turnout we have had at any of the events in the state,” she said. “Knowing we’d have so many people, we beefed up our staff, bringing in about 20 representatives from the Governor’s office, the local and state taxation offices, and the IRS.”

“We are thankful for Ocean County Library making their facilities available to help us to help others,” said Michael Bryan, Director of the State Division of Taxation. “It’s a valuable resource and it allows us to talk directly with people who were hit the hardest.”

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Stations with representatives were set up around Mancini Hall and The Green Room. Using laptops they were able to access information and address people’s unique situations.

The session also included a Q&A portion with IRS representatives presenting an overview of how to claim a casualty loss on one’s Federal tax return.

It starts with contacting FEMA to establish an account, said Ann Dowie. As a follow up, people may then be given a SBA contact. People must also contact their insurance companies.

Glenn Gizzi and Bryan Coffey then explained tax form 4684, the casualty and loss form, and discussed tax strategies to maximize their tax deductions.

“This program was great,” said Heddy Falcetta. “They told us so much and I have confidence in what they said. After all, they’re from the IRS.”

She also said she appreciated the pamphlets the representatives gave attendees.

“If I have any questions when I get home I have reference material with phone numbers that I can call to get the right answers,” she said.

“The reps gave us a lot of information covering a wide-range of topics,” said Pat Silva, a 38-year resident of Toms River. “They gave everyone clear answers to their questions and pointed you in the right direction.”

The 75-minute Q&A session was also valuable, said her husband Bob.

“It prompted me to consider questions I hadn’t thought about before,” he said.

“This was certainly worthwhile for people who need help,” said Pat, “and it would be worthwhile having it again.”

Marita Sciarrotta was happy with the turnout and all that the session accomplished.

“The purpose of this was to bring government to the people,” she said after the program.  “We were able to connect with people, to look into their eyes and share in their pain. We provided guidance through a direct and compassionate dialog.”

The session will be repeated in the Brick branch Tuesday March 26 beginning at 6 p.m. Registration is requested but walk-ins will be welcomed. Telephone the branch at (732) 477-4513.

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