By Ron Mori
The 2018 tax season is upon us, and all of us are in store for some surprises based on the new tax code changes that were passed last year. In the case of my mother, she’s fairly stress-free after making her free appointment to meet with an AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program volunteer next week.
From now through April 15, AARP Foundation is providing free tax assistance and preparation through its Tax-Aide program. AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is the nation’s largest free tax assistance and preparation service. Since its inception, the program has served more than 68 million taxpayers.
Tax-Aide started in 1968 with just four volunteers working at one site. Today, nearly 35,000 volunteers serve low- to moderate-income taxpayers at almost 5,000 locations in neighborhood libraries, malls, banks, community centers and senior centers nationwide. There’s no fee, and AARP membership is not required.
“AARP Foundation Tax-Aide provides free tax assistance to those who need it most,” said AARP Foundation VP of Tax-Aide Lynnette Lee-Villanueva. “For over 50 years, Tax-Aide has provided help to millions of low- and moderate-income taxpayers. This worthwhile program helps older adults by building economic opportunity and enables them to preserve as much of their income as possible.”
Tax-Aide volunteers are trained and IRS-certified each year to ensure they know about and understand the latest changes to the U.S. Tax Code. In 2018, the program’s volunteers helped 2.5 million people navigate complicated tax codes, ensure proper credits and deductions, and file their federal and state tax returns.
Taxpayers who used Tax-Aide received $1.3 billion in income tax refunds and more than $212 million in Earned Income Tax Credits (EITCs). They also avoided tax preparation fees and pitches for high-interest tax credit or refund loans.
To find an AARP Foundation Tax-Aide site or more information, including which documents to bring to the tax site, visit or call (888) AARPNOW (227-7669). AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is offered in conjunction with the IRS. You can also visit the website at https://www.aarp.org/money/taxes/aarp_taxaide/.
Be Alert for Tax Scams
While we’re on the topic of taxes: As a reminder to all Pacific Citizen readers, the IRS will not call and threaten arrest for taxes owed, and it certainly won’t ask for a gift card as a form of payment. But scammers will to try and get your personal information. In a survey, AARP found that many consumers are woefully at risk for the onslaught of Internal Revenue Service scammers. Key findings include: IRS scammers keep calling until they land victims, with one in four respondents (25 percent) receiving a phony call from someone impersonating an IRS agent over the last year.
Nearly four out of five respondents (79 percent) haven’t ordered a free copy of their credit report in the past 12 months.
The IRS does not email or text for your information, but more than a quarter of respondents (26 percent) incorrectly believe or are uncertain about whether the IRS can text or email requests for personal or financial information.
Criminals impersonating the IRS often make aggressive threats — of arrest, court action, confiscation of property or even deportation — unless they make immediate payment.
The AARP campaign advises consumers that legitimate IRS representatives do not:
Call you to demand immediate payment.
Call you about taxes owed without first having contacted you by mail.
Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a gift card, prepaid debit card or ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
For more information about the IRS scam and other tax-related frauds, visit www.aarp.org/FraudWatchNetwork. Consumers who think that they are being targeted by a scammer may call the AARP Fraud Helpline at (877) 908-3360 and speak with a volunteer trained in fraud counseling.
Ron Mori is a member of the Washington, D.C., JACL chapter and manager of community, states and national affairs — multicultural leadership for AARP.