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Facing the Tax Man? Get Some "Tax-Aide"

PHOTO: One at a time, almost 30,000 income tax returns were prepared in Arkansas by AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteers. Courtesy of AARP.
PHOTO: One at a time, almost 30,000 income tax returns were prepared in Arkansas by AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteers. Courtesy of AARP.
February 5, 2013

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - It's that time of year again, time to round up the receipts and income statements and try to make sense of the income tax forms.

In that situation, free tax assistance from trained volunteers sounds like almost too good a deal to pass up. AARP Foundation's Tax-Aide program pairs IRS-certified tax preparers with just about anyone who needs help with basic income tax preparation. There are 32 Tax-Aide locations around Arkansas.

Lydia Plant, the program's state administrator in Arkansas, has prepared returns for 11 years. As a retired chemist, she brings an eye for detail to the job, and pointed out that many of the volunteers aren't here just because they love crunching numbers.

"We all love it, and it has nothing to do with math. We're helping people, doing something that's really meaningful," she said.

Last year, more than 300 Arkansas volunteers helped prepare almost 30,000 income tax returns. AARP Foundation's Tax-Aide program is the largest volunteer-run tax service in the country. There is no charge to use it, and you don't have to be a senior or an AARP member.

The volunteers aren't equipped to do taxes for businesses or to deal with more complex returns. Instead, their focus is on helping low- to moderate-income taxpayers, and Plant said they can point out deductions people might otherwise miss, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-wage workers. And before people show up for Tax-Aide assistance, she said, there's a short list of items to round up.

"Bring, of course, all their income statements, all their receipts, if they have any, for deductions. A photo ID, a Social Security card would be very desirable," Plant mentioned. "And most important of all, a copy of last year's return."

Arkansas taxpayers who used the Tax-Aide program got refunds of more than $17 million last year.

To find a location for tax assistance call 888-227-7669 toll-free, or look online at AARP.org/findtaxhelp.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - AR