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Tax-Aide Opens Free Preparation Centers Statewide

February 6, 2012

HELENA, Mont. - It's a sure sign that tax season is under way: The doors have opened at AARP Montana Tax-Aide sites around the state. Those centers help more than 10,000 Montanans file federal and state returns every year, and it's done for free.

Volunteers, such as Concetta Eckel of Helena, go through a few weeks of IRS training to be ready to help.

"We want to work with low- to moderate-income people who really can't afford to go to a paid professional."

She says they specialize in helping people age 60 and older. In Montana, she says an often overlooked tax credit is the Elderly Homeowner/Renter Credit. That can be worth up to $1,000.

Returns are filed electronically at the sites. Eckel encourages those eligible for a refund to opt for direct deposit, even though it can be a tough sell, at first, for the older generation.

"Once they do it, they're really happy because it happens very quickly. They don't have to get out in the winter and get to the bank with their check."

It's Eckel's 12th year as a Tax-Aide volunteer. She owned her own business for 20 years and says the program is a perfect match for her experience and expertise. Plus, she says, it keeps her mind sharp.

"I have done a lot of volunteer work throughout my lifetime, and I'll tell you, this is the most rewarding thing I do."

Some sites are walk-in, and some set appointments. Call 1-888-AARP-NOW or visit www.MontanaFreeFile.org for details.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MT