April 15 is more than two months away, but time flies so start thinking about your taxes now. And while seniors may think they need not worry about this, sometimes it pays to check things out.
“The volunteers with AARP’s Tax Aide Program have answers to questions you might not have even thought to ask,” said Stan Marshall, Tax Aide volunteer.
Rich Jung, retired CPA and district coordinator for the program, agrees. “It is important for seniors to visit with us this year, even if they have not done so in the past as there are several regulations that may benefit seniors,” he said. “We will determine if seniors qualify for benefits such as the earned income credit if they are still working and especially if they have a child living with them. Seniors taking responsibility for grandchildren may be able to claim an additional tax deduction.”
AARP Tax Aide began in 1968 and was one of the first programs to use volunteers to ensure older people received necessary and important services. In 1980, a cooperative agreement was reached with the Internal Revenue Service as part of its Tax Counseling for the Elderly. It has grown to be the largest volunteer organization preparing tax returns, including, in Maine, state income tax returns.
The volunteers have extensive week-long training, are IRS certified, and are available to the public until April 15. The service is free and open to anyone of low or middle income, but special attention is given to seniors 60 and older.
“We assist in filing basic tax forms and schedules. We also do 100 percent electronic filing for free which is quite a savings and gets a faster refund if one is due,” said Jung. “But if someone has a complex form, or a hefty income, we advise them to seek paid tax preparer assistance. Our goal is to reach people who really need our help, especially seniors.”
These dedicated volunteers have set up shop in libraries and offices, including Eastern Area Agency on Aging, beginning Feb. 4, to fulfill their mission for seeing that every senior who is eligible for a refund, gets one. EAAA is taking appointments for 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays. The Bangor Public Library is available on a first come first served basis, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, and also on Tuesdays during February. Seniors go to the head of the line, however.
“You can find other local sites by calling the AARP at 888-227-7669 or on the Internet at www.aarp.org/taxaide. You can also call 211 to find other local free tax preparation locations,” said Jung.
Jung has a list of things to bring when meeting with your Tax Aide volunteer:
• Identification for taxpayer and spouse (if filing joint).
• Social Security cards for taxpayer, spouse, and any dependents
• Copy of last year’s income tax return
• W-2, SSA-1099 forms if you received Social Security, and all other 1099 forms such as annuity, pension, interest, dividend, etc. that you have
• Summary of deductions such as medical expenses, mortgage interest, real estate taxes or charitable contributions, if you are planning to itemize deductions.
“If you or someone else does your tax return and you want to double check it, we will do that, too,” said Marshall. “The volunteers love what they do and they clearly make a difference.” Again, typically, seniors who are just receiving Social Security don’t need to file a return, said Marshall. ”We can help anyone who asks to know whether they need to file a tax return.”
Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging. For information on EAAA, call 941-2865, toll-free 800-432-7812, or log on EAAA.org.