If you are retired and find yourself struggling to prepare your tax return, you can seek free help from the AARP. The AARP, the American Association of Retired Persons, is a non-governmental organization and interest group founded in 1958. It provides free tax help to the elderly and low-income taxpayers that often cannot hire professional services for tax preparation. The News and Tribune explores how the AARP is helping taxpayers file their taxes correctly:
“When Shirley J. Bedan went to a tax preparation company for help filing her taxes, she was dismayed to find out she would leave with only $9 worth of refunds in her pocket after paying for the company’s services.
“‘I thought, ‘They’re really keeping my refund, aren’t they?’ she said.
“That’s why Bedan, a New Albany retiree, instead went to AARP’s Tax-Aide service at the American Legion Post 204 in Sellersburg.
“‘Right now, it’s pretty hard on everybody, with the economy,’ she said. ‘I needed it.’
“Ed Scharf, volunteer for AARP, said the free service helps the elderly, low income and disabled with this headache-inducing and often expensive task.
“‘Everybody hates it. And nobody wants to know about it. They don’t want to learn it,’ Scharf said. ‘And I understand that.’”
The IRS offers free tax help for the elderly, the disabled and low-income taxpayers during the tax season through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs. AARP’s free tax help services is a part of the IRS’s TCE program.
Taxpayers should consider using the free help offered by the IRS or AARP if they are not computer savvy enough to use tax preparation software for preparing their return, or if they cannot afford to pay for professional tax preparation. News and Tribune reports about the alternative help:
“‘A lot of our elderly people are not going to use a computer to start with,’ he said ‘Their income’s not that high that they can afford to be spending that much on income tax preparation.’
“All of the volunteers undergo training and certification through the Internal Revenue Service. Taxpayers must bring a photo ID, Social Security ID and a copy of last year’s return from the IRS and [their state] to protect against identity theft.
“‘We try to make sure of who we’re talking to,’ Scharf said.
“Some of their taxpaying clients are the mentally or physically disabled, many of whom come in a group with their mentors.
“‘Without [us], they would just have to give their refund up because you couldn’t afford to pay someone to do it and they can’t do it, so we do it and do it happily,’ he said.
“The only time AARP turns someone away is when they don’t have the proper identification requirements or if their taxes take more than a couple of hours to file so that volunteers have enough time to help everyone.”