Mt. Vernon Register-News

December 31, 2013

AARP program offers tax help

By TRAVIS MORSE travis.morse@register-news.com
The Register-News

---- — MT. VERNON — The AARP Tax-Aide Program kicks off Feb. 3, and seniors and younger taxpayers alike are encouraged to take advantage of the free service.

Each year, the volunteer program provides income tax preparation assistance to taxpayers across the country.

There are four Tax-Aide locations serving this area — in Mt. Vernon, Centralia, Salem and Fairfield. Once it starts in February, the program is available until the last regular tax filing day April 15.

The goal of the service is to file accurate tax returns for citizens while saving them the cost of using a professional tax preparer, said Tom Charlton, the Centralia and Salem local coordinator for the program.

“It saves the taxpayers money,” Charlton said. “It files accurate returns that are accepted quickly by the IRS.”

The program serves taxpayers with low to moderate incomes, with a special emphasis on those 60 years of age or older. Even so, younger taxpayers are

also welcome to use the service.

“It’s not just for (older) people. It’s not just for AARP members,” Charlton said. “In fact, we would like to see more young people use the service.”

The Mt. Vernon Tax-Aide site is located at the Central Christian Church ministry building at the corner of North and 12th streets. It will be open starting Feb. 3 on a walk-in basis, Monday through Wednesday.

The Centralia, Salem and Fairfield sites can be used by appointment only.

The Centralia site is at the First United Presbyterian Church, 102 S. Hickory, and will be open from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. To make an appointment, call 532-9124.

The Salem site is at the First Christian Church, 1200 W. Boone, and will be open from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Mondays. For appointments, call 548-1922.

Fairfield’s site is at the Kon-Tiki Senior Center, 211 SE Second St., and is open on Wednesdays. For appointments, call 842-2261.

In 2013, the Tax-Aide Program filed more than 1,100 returns for Mt. Vernon area taxpayers and more than 700 returns for Salem/Centralia taxpayers.

Many of the Mt. Vernon returns were for families and couples, said Nell Blastick, the Mt. Vernon and Fairfield local coordinator.

“It’s a free tax service. We have been in Mt. Vernon for over 20 years,” Blastick said. “It’s a pretty good sized program.”

The returns are filed electronically and most taxpayers receive their direct deposit refunds in seven to 10 days.

Blastick said volunteers with the program receive training from the AARP, in conjunction with the IRS.

However, the program is only designed to assist with “simple returns,” Blastick said. More complex returns, such as those involving depreciation, would not be handled through this program, Blastick said.

Those who participate should bring the necessary documentation, including Social Security cards, Government-issued identification, income-related documents, brokerage statements, expense documents and receipts, the previous year’s return and a checkbook, among others.

At the program site, participating taxpayers first meet with a volunteer who checks their paperwork to make sure all the needed documents are there.

The taxpayer then sits down with a preparer who completes their tax return. The taxpayer is present during the process to provide information.

Then, finally, a quality reviewer examines the completed return to ensure everything is correct before it is filed electronically.

Volunteers are needed for the AARP Tax-Aide Program. If you are interested, visit www.aarp.org/taxvolunteer, or contact Charlton at 322-4386.