It's Tax Season and Volunteers are Here to Help
PORTLAND, Ore. - Taxes just got a little easier this year with the aid of volunteer programs throughout Oregon. AARP and CASH Oregon are offering free face-to-face consultations throughout tax season, mainly looking to help people with low incomes.
Bill Ensign, state coordinator of the AARP Foundation Tax Aide Program, says the programs have reached so many people in the past because of a common thread among volunteers.
"They, as a rule, like to help other people," says Ensign. "They may not necessarily like to do income taxes. We do have some of those that love to do income taxes too. But generally it's because our people just want to help someone else."
Volunteers must pass a test ensuring they are qualified to help with tax returns, and the Internal Revenue Service requires another counselor check the quality of the return.
Although volunteers can help with taxes dating back four years, Ensign says they are not able to help with complicated returns.
Last year, the programs were available at more than 140 sites across Oregon, including community centers and schools, and were even able to help people unable to leave their homes.
When CASH Oregon conducted a survey a few years ago, its executive director, Rob Justus, found that volunteers helped people who spoke more than 100 different languages at home.
He says it's important for his organization to make sure taxes aren't so intimidating.
"There's always this kind of fear factor that exists there," says Justus. "We see that with low-income folks. We especially see that when we're working with people where English isn't their first language, or we have people that are new immigrants and they want to do the right thing."
Justus says people save on average more than $150 by using this free service. Last year, 1,300 volunteers helped more than 83,000 Oregonians do their taxes.