Would you like to help make a senior's taxes less taxing?
You can by becoming a volunteer tax preparation counselor in the Carbon County District of the AARP's Tax-Aide Program.
Interested in volunteering? Six days of free training are provided: Tuesday, Jan. 5; Wednesday, Jan. 6; Friday, Jan. 8; Tuesday, Jan. 12; Wednesday , Jan. 13; and Friday, Jan. 15, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Jim Thorpe Memorial Hall. To apply, call Bob Gordon at 570-325-4670.
"We helped about 800 people in Carbon County last year," Gordon said. "We help a lot of people who are on fixed income who don't have a complicate tax return.
"The program is worthwhile and free. It's a challenge to the volunteers to keep up with the tax code. Just when people think it is getting simpler, additional forms are added and the seniors get overwhelmed."
"The AARP's Tax-Aide Program is one of the biggest services that the organization provides," said Allan Hild, Carbon County District Coordinator for AARP's Tax-Aide Program. AARP is the American Association for Retired People.
"The program is designed for senior citizens in the low to moderate income range," Hild explained. "We don't do the complicated returns. We do the EZ returns, the 1040A returns, and the 1040 returns with schedules A and B. We do schedule D only if there are a limited number of transactions. If a person comes in with a brokerage statement and has multiple transactions, we are not going to do that because we don't have the time."
An accounting background is not required to volunteer. Most volunteers just enjoy doing taxes and helping people. Once the course is completed, a test must be passed to demonstrate knowledge of the material.
Volunteers are asked to work one day a week from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and from Feb. 1 to April 15. There are four Carbon County counselor locations: Jim Thorpe Memorial Hall, Penn Forest Township Building, Beaver Meadows Borough Hall, and the Lehighton Recreation Center.
The training course is led by Hild, an accountant by profession who has been coordinating the program first in New Jersey and then Carbon County for a total of 21 years.
Hild expects his volunteer crew to number about 15 counselors with a local coordinator at each site.
When the Tax-Aide program is in operation, seniors will be asked to bring last year's returns and any appropriate tax documents. Returns will be handled first come, first served. Appointments will not be accepted.
"With my background, I've always enjoyed working with taxes," Hild said. "The volunteers get a good feeling when helping people."
"A lot of people are afraid of taxes," he noted. "This program gives them a nice comfortable feeling that somebody, a knowledgeable person, is doing their taxes."