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Free Tax Help Available For Older Californians

April 4, 2012

The income tax filing deadline is fast approaching, but it can be less taxing for those age 60 and older.

AARP's Tax-Aide program helps middle- and lower-income older Californians prepare basic federal and state income tax returns. The best part is that the tax prep is absolutely free.

AARP California spokeswoman Christina Clem says the Tax-Aide program is beneficial to older Californians who are almost - or already - retired.

"They're out of the working status, they're into retirement. They're actually bringing in different kinds of forms, between Social Security forms and retirement and pension and annuities. It can be a little complicated."

Trained tax preparers are volunteering at hundreds of sites across California, including libraries, senior centers and community centers.

Clem says AARP California found that 55 percent of its members typically use their refunds to pay off bills, while 25 percent are able to save the money.

One of the most overlooked tax advantages for some, she says, is the Earned Interest Tax Credit.

"The refundable federal income tax credit that's for low- to moderate-income working individuals and families. That's something that, when you are either preparing your taxes or talking to a tax professional or one of our Tax-Aide volunteers, to make sure to inquire about."

Walk-ins are welcome, she says, but appointments are encouraged. She adds that it's important to bring all of your tax documents, including last year's tax returns, Social Security cards or other official documentation for yourself and your dependents.

"You want to have a W-2 from all of the employers, your Social Security form, which is an SSA-1099. And then there's some various 1099 and 1099R forms that are pretty common with older adults."

While the program is targeted toward older Californians, it's open to everyone. To find an AARP Tax-Aide site, go online to or call 1-888-AARP-NOW (1-888-227-7669).

Lori Abbott/Dallas Heltzell, Public News Service - CA