Legal Aid Society

Consumer Debt, Tax & Small Business

We assist New Yorkers involved in tax disputes, bankruptcy proceedings, and consumer issues such as credit cards, auto loans, medical, and student loan debt. We can also provide legal assistance with small businesses, not-for-profits, and Housing Development Fund Companies (HDFC).

How To Get Help

Those seeking assistance with consumer issues should call the Access to Benefits helpline at 888-663 6880 Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

For assistance with tax disputes, please call 212-426-3013 Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Note: you will be asked to leave a message with a return phone number. You may also fill out our online intake form.

For help with small businesses, not-for-profit organizations, and HDFCs contact the Community Development Project at 212-298-3340,, or reserve a spot in our new virtual clinic by completing our online questionnaire.

Important Things To Know

Everything you need to know about small claims court.

Learn More

Understanding your rights can help you deal with your debts and stop debt collectors from harassing you.

Learn More

Get the information you need to accurately file your annual taxes and respond to requests from the IRS or NYS Tax Department.

Learn More

Terms You Might Hear

The justice system can be overwhelming. Get familiar with some legal terms and acronyms you might hear like appeal, adjournment, petition, jurisdiction, deposition, and affidavit.

  • Adjournment – A temporary postponement of a case until a specified future time.
  • Arbitration – A process in which a trained attorney or a retired judge decides a dispute instead of the court; if the parties consent to arbitration, the arbitrator's decision is final; otherwise, a dissatisfied party can request a trial before the court.
  • Attorney – A person admitted to practice law and authorized to perform criminal and civil legal functions on behalf of clients.
  • Beneficiary – Generally, a beneficiary is a person or entity who receives a profit, advantage, or benefit. For example, a person named to receive something in a will is a beneficiary under such will. Or refers to alien who has as a petitioner formally filing on their behalf to receive immigration benefits.
  • Brief – A written document prepared by the lawyers on each side of a dispute that is submitted to the court in support of each side's argument. It includes the points of law which the lawyer wishes to establish, the arguments the lawyer will use, and the legal authorities on which the lawyer rests their conclusions.
  • Clerk – An official or employee of the court who maintains the files of each case, and issues routine documents.
  • Creditor – An individual to whom an obligation is owed because he or she has given something of value in exchange.
  • Defendant – In a civil matter, this refers to the individual being sued. This party is called the "respondent" in a summary proceeding. In a criminal case, the court officers and district attorneys will use this term to refer to someone accused of a crime.
  • Delinquency – An offense or misdemeanor; a misdeed; A debt or other financial obligation on which payment is overdue.
  • Evidence – A form of proof or probative matter legally presented at the trial of an issue by the acts of the parties and through witnesses, records, documents, concrete objects, etc., for the purpose of inducing belief in the minds of the court or the jury.
  • Inquest – A non-jury trial, where one party has not appeared or defended against the claim, and after the merits of the claim have been proven.
  • Insolvent – A person whose estate is not sufficient to pay their debts.
  • Jurisdiction – The ability for the court to decide the case, based on the type of case.
  • Landlord – A lessor of real property; the owner or possessor of an estate in land or a rental property, who, in an exchange for rent, leases it to another individual known as the tenant.
  • Lawyer – Someone whose job is to give advice to people about the law and speak for them in court.
  • Levy – A seizure; the obtaining of money by legal process through seizure and sale of property.
  • Liability – An obligation to do, to eventually do, or to refrain from doing something; money owed; or according to law one's responsibility for his/her conduct; or one's responsibility for causing an injury.
  • Lien – A claim on specific property for payment of a debt.
  • Maintenance – Repair and upkeep in housing. OR Money or other financial support awarded to a spouse in a divorce action for his or her separate support. Also called spousal support or alimony.
  • Medicaid – A health insurance program for low-income and individuals with disabilities. Jointly paid for by the federal and state government.
  • Minutes – Notes of what happened in the courtroom.
  • Mortgage – A legal document by which the owner (i.e., the buyer) transfers to the lender an interest in real estate to secure the repayment of a debt, evidenced by a mortgage note.
  • Order of Protection – A court order requiring someone to stay a certain distance from another person, and sometimes, their children, home, pets, school or employment.
  • Party – Person having a direct interest in a legal matter, transaction or proceeding.
  • Plaintiff – The person suing. This party is called the "petitioner" in summary proceedings.
  • Precinct – A district of a city or town defined for police purposes. May also refer to a police station.
  • Public Charge – An immigration law that can be basis for denying a non-citizen entry in the U.S., or for denying an application to adjust status if they are applying through a family member.
  • Repossess – To take something back from a person who is buying it over a period of time because they cannot continue to pay for it.
  • Settlement – A written compromise reached by the parties and approved by a judge.
  • Social Security – A federal program that provides income, health insurance, and other benefits.
  • Subpoena – A court document used to compel a witness to testify at the hearing or to produce records.
  • Summons – A plaintiff's written notice delivered to the parties being sued, that they must respond to within a specific time.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) – A federal income supplement program designed to assist aged, blind, and disabled people with little to no income and to provide cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter.
  • TPS – Temporary Protective Status. Offers temporary legal status to certain immigrants in the United States who cannot return to their home country due to ongoing armed conflict, natural disaster, or other extraordinary reasons.
  • Trial – The formal examination of a legal controversy in court so as to determine the issue.
  • Vacate – To cancel or set aside.
  • Warrant – An official document approved by an authority (normally a judge) which gives the police permission to do certain things.
  • Witness – A person who testifies to what they have seen, heard, or otherwise observed.