Since 1968, the volunteer-based program has helped nearly 50 million low- to moderate-income taxpayers.
By Ron Mori
It’s tax season again, that dreaded time of year when many of us stress out over the complexity of the paperwork and procrastinate from dealing with any of it as late as possible until the filing deadline. Some of us suffer alone amidst piles of receipts and forms; others visit accountants, but either way, we feel paranoid that we’re not handling our taxes correctly.
It doesn’t always have to be so painful.
Did you know that AARP Foundation offers free tax preparation help to anyone, especially those who are 50 and older? I certainly didn’t, until I started learning more about AARP Foundation’s Tax-Aide program. Since 1968, this volunteer-based program has helped nearly 50 million low- to moderate-income taxpayers.
It turns out that for years, my mom has been getting her taxes done by a Tax-Aide volunteer. I had no idea, until my mother asked me to go with her five years ago. In her case, she had made an appointment by phone, and the volunteer was a retired accountant that had worked with her for several years at a local Tax-Aide site in Glenview, Ill.
I was so impressed that she had all of her paperwork together, and the filing process was so easy. My mother is savvy in so many ways, but she’s not at all comfortable with a personal computer to obtain information or schedule any appointments. So, I asked her how she knew what to bring.
Her response was simple, old school, and just so casual: “I just call and schedule an appointment and bring my documentation,” was her reply. I’m thinking, wow, this makes total sense, and there was a time before personal computers when communication was more personal. We called to schedule appointments — what a concept!
When AARP Foundation Tax-Aide was started way back in 1968, just four volunteers at one site prepared 100 tax returns. These days, more than 2.6 million taxpayers are helped at 5,000 sites across the country, by more than 35,000 volunteers!
It’s important to note that Tax-Aide volunteers are IRS-certified and have to pass an extensive test and attend ongoing tax-related education. Many of the volunteers that I’ve met have 15-plus years as a volunteer preparing taxes. Big kudos to the thousands of Tax-Aide volunteers across this country that provide this valuable free service. AARP Foundation Tax-Aide has more than 5,000 locations in neighborhood libraries, malls, banks, community centers and senior centers. There’s no fee and no sales pitch for other services, and AARP membership is not required.
AARP Foundation’s Tax-Aide program is also available in languages other than English, and it’s always looking for bilingual volunteers who can work with Asian clients in, say, Cantonese or Mandarin. If you are interested in volunteering in English or any language, or know anyone who might be qualified, get in touch!
To find an AARP Foundation Tax-Aide site in your community during tax season, call the toll-free number at 888-AARP-NOW (888-227-7669) or visit AARP.org/findtaxhelp to find a location and checklist of items to bring when you visit an AARP Foundation Tax-Aide site. If you are interested in being a Tax-Aide volunteer, click to this page:
Remember, there’s no need to stress out anymore!
Ron Mori a board member for the Washington, D.C., JACL chapter, and manager of community, states and national affairs — multicultural leadership for AARP.