AARP Tax-Aide offers tax preparation help
by Wes Mayer
Every week through April 10, volunteers with the AARP Foundation will be setting aside two days in Coweta to help people of all ages file their federal and state tax returns — for free.
“It’s a very good program,” said Kathy Heitchue while waiting to be helped last Wednesday at the A. Mitchell Powell Jr. Public Library on Hospital Road in Newnan. “I don’t mind waiting. They are very nice, compatible people, and they are taking their time to help us.”
Starting last Wednesday and Thursday and continuing every week until taxes are due, the AARP volunteers will be offering their free assistance on a first-come, first-serve basis. On Wednesdays, the volunteers will be set up from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Powell Library in Newnan, and on Thursdays, they will set up at the same times at the Central Library on Literary Lane in eastern Coweta.
“The staff is very experienced,” said Ruby Adams at Powell Library. “You can tell they’ve been doing this for a while. I don’t go anywhere else, and you can’t beat the price.”
Last year, the volunteers filed tax returns for more than 800 people, said Jimmy Taylor, who coordinates and volunteers for the annual event in Coweta. As of noon last Thursday, almost 90 people in the community had come out to seek tax assistance.
“The big benefit I get is helping people,” Taylor said. “The people who come in are so appreciative. It makes you feel good when you go home at night. Most of us here are retired, so it gives you something to do and makes you feel good doing it.”
Just because the service is free does not mean it is cheap. Each volunteer goes through training and is tested on his or her knowledge of taxes every year, Taylor said. There will also be at least two volunteers looking over a person’s tax returns to have a second set of eyes checking for any mistakes. The volunteers provide almost the exact same service a person would receive at a tax filing company, Taylor said, without having to pay $200 to $300.
Many of the volunteers have years of experience, like Richard Nielsen, who worked for the IRS for 30 years and has volunteered for the AARP tax aide since 1999. Nielsen said in his years of volunteering, he sees around 75 percent of people from the previous year returning the next.
“I enjoy it,” Nielsen said. “I think we all enjoy it. They appreciate us so much and depend on us so much. I wouldn’t do it for money — it wouldn’t be any fun for money.”
The tax assistance is not only for AARP members, Taylor said. Anyone, any age, can simply show up for tax assistance. No appointments are necessary, but there may be a wait — there was an approximate hour wait around noon last Wednesday. “Sometimes there will be situations where we really wish we can help more than we can,” Taylor said. “But we’ll go the extra mile for whoever comes in.”
An additional date for the free service has been set for Tuesday, March 11 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Heard County Public Library on 564 Main St. in Franklin. Nielsen said there are usually about 20 to 30 people there who can’t make it to Coweta County but still depend on and appreciate the service.
Those wishing to take advantage of the free filing should bring a copy of last year’s (2012) income tax return; W-2 forms from all employers; unemployment compensation statements; SSA-1099 form if you were paid Social Security benefits; all 1099 forms showing interest and/or dividends and documents showing original purchase price of any sold assets/stocks; 1099-misc. showing any miscellaneous income; 1099-R form if you received a pension or annuity; all forms indicating federal income tax paid; dependent care provider information (name, employer ID, Social Security number); all receipts and canceled checks if itemizing deductions; Social Security cards or other official documentation for yourself and all dependents.