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Reimagine Everything: Free Tax Preparation Service Celebrates 50 Years and 50 Million Served

By February 9, 2018March 6th, 2018No Comments

By Ron Mori

[dropcap]N[/dropcap]ow through April 17, AARP Foundation is providing free tax assistance and preparation through its Tax-Aide program. AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is celebrating its 50th year. Not many people know that it is the nation’s largest free tax assistance and preparation service. Since its inception, the program has served more than 50 million taxpayers, including my parents — even before I knew about this free program provided by the AARP Foundation.

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 5,000 locations in neighborhood libraries, malls, banks, community centers and senior centers nationwide.

It’s true, there are no fees, and AARP membership is not required. Some locations even offer assistance in additional languages, which can be found at the Tax-Aide website.

Pictured are some of the Asian American AARP volunteers who offer free tax help for people every year. (Photo: AARP)

Tax-Aide volunteers are trained and IRS-certified each year to ensure that they know about and understand the latest changes to the U.S. Tax Code. In 2017, 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 $1.37 billion in income tax refunds and more than $222 million in Earned Income Tax Credits. They also avoided tax preparation fees and pitches for high-interest tax credit or refund loans.

I also want to remind everyone that tax time is yet another opportunity for scammers trying to take advantage of trusting people. Just the other day, I received an automated call that the local Sheriff would arrest me if I didn’t call a toll-free number to address an IRS inquiry.This is an example of just one tactic — the IRS is warning taxpayers that they should not be fooled by indivduals who call or email about issues related to their taxes. Be especially vigilant of demands for immediate payment or inquiries for personal information.

The IRS says it contacts taxpayers by mailed letters — not email, texts or social media. The IRS rarely, if ever, contacts taxpayers by phone, and it will never call you asking for your debit or credit card information. If you doubt the authenticity of an IRS phone call, you should contact the IRS at (800) 829-1040.

Tax-Aide has helped millions of low- and moderate-income taxpayers for 50 years, a truly valuable service. To find an AARP Foundation Tax-Aide site or for more information, including which documents to bring to the tax site, visit Error! Hyperlink reference not valid. or call (888) 227-7669. AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is offered in conjunction with the IRS.

Ron Mori is co-president of the Washington, D.C., JACL chapter and manager of community, states and national affairs — multicultural leadership for AARP.