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Free Tax Return Prep Offered for Texans Who Need Help

PHOTO: The AARP Foundation is offering free preparation services at sites across Texas through its Tax-Aide program. Photo Credit: John Morgan
PHOTO: The AARP Foundation is offering free preparation services at sites across Texas through its Tax-Aide program. Photo Credit: John Morgan
March 11, 2013

AUSTIN, Texas - It comes around every year like clockwork. The deadline for filing tax returns is now just over a month away. For those still struggling to get it all together, there is help available. Free tax preparation with IRS-certified volunteers is being offered at sites across the state through the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program. The services are open to all ages and income levels, although regional coordinator Ron Craig says a majority of those who come in are low-income seniors.

"Taxes scare the heck out of people," he explained. "And of course, as people get older - and I had a gentleman in yesterday who is 91 - many of them aren't computer literate, they don't understand the tax law and they don't want to keep up with the tax law. That's why we put all this together."

In addition to the preparation, the return is e-filed at no cost through the AARP Tax-Aide program. Taxpayers can find information on where and when the services are being offered near them by going to either the AARP or IRS websites.

While the services are free, people need to bring a number of items along with them, Craig said, including a copy of their tax return from last year.

"They need to have photo ID, Social Security card and all the documents they've received from their bank, from their stockbroker, from their employer, that we need to enter the taxes," he explained.

Showing up with a pile of documents is exactly what one elderly couple from the Houston area did. On the team at the Tax-Aide office that day was Bart Hatfield, who says they ended up saving thousands of dollars. During their appointment, it was discovered that they were facing major penalties because they had not taken disbursements from their retirement account as required by law - they didn't know they had to do that. So Hatfield said Tax-Aide volunteers completed the couple's return and advised them to approach the IRS.

"We helped them present logic about why the penalty should be waived: The fact that it wasn't willful. The fact that the company did such an extremely poor job of notifying them clearly of what the requirements were. They took it to the IRS and eventually worked out a deal that saved them about $7,000," he said.

Assistance will be offered until the filing deadline on April 15. Since it began in 1968, the program has helped nearly 50 million taxpayers across the country.

More information is available at www.aarp.org or by calling 888-227-7669.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - TX