Time for tax preparationThe Red Wing district needs volunteer tax preparers, according to Bob Harlow, Red Wing district coordinator for the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program.
By: Amber Barrios, The Republican Eagle
The Red Wing district needs volunteer tax preparers, according to Bob Harlow, Red Wing district coordinator for the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program.
“Currently there are 18 volunteer preparers and three site facilitators who address administrative requirements,” Harlow said. “If you are comfortable with computers and prepare your own return, consider helping with this program.”
Those who are interested in becoming volunteer tax preparers should contact Harlow at 651-388-8353. Free training will take place today, Jan. 10 and 11 at Red Wing Public Library.
Following training, volunteers will contribute about 40 hours total during the February through April tax preparation season, Harlow said. Property tax returns are also prepared through August.
“Return preparers are volunteers who train and test with IRS and Minnesota Department of Revenue required material,” Harlow said.
Training concentrates on the needs of taxpayers with low to moderate income, with special attention paid to those 60 years old and older. There is also an option for interested individuals to begin the training online at irs.gov, where they will receive IRS provided instruction and testing, Harlow said.
“I would actually prefer if they would do the online training first, because it makes the on-site training at Red Wing Public Library easier,” Harlow said.
“They still need to come to class to pass an ethics test and review AARP, Minnesota and IRS policies such as anti-discrimination, no gratis payments, privacy and security,” he added.
Testing leads to certification, which is necessary to qualify an individual to prepare returns, Harlow said, adding that each volunteer is issued a laptop computer. Volunteers take an open-book test for recertification each year.
Fred Stone of Lake City, who has been an AARP Tax-Aide volunteer tax preparer for more than 20 years, says he finds it enjoyable and rewarding.
“I highly recommend it,” Stone said. “If anybody would be interested in doing it, I think that it is a very gratifying type of work.”
“You have to be a numbers person to do it, and you have to be familiar with a computer because it’s all done on computer now,” Stone added.
Stone said he first heard about the program from his sister-in-law, who was a volunteer tax preparer with AARP Tax-Aide.
“She said, ‘I think you’d be interested in that,’ so I looked into it and I’ve been in it ever since,” said Stone, who had been living in Maryland at the time. He continued as a volunteer tax preparer after moving to Florida and then Lake City.
“Here in Lake City we’ve done 30 to 40 returns per year and of course it’s a big benefit for those people who we do it for. They’re very appreciative of it,” Stone said. “Many of the returns that we do are for elderly people who wouldn’t have to do a return. They just don’t make enough money to make a return, but Minnesota has property tax refund return so they submit the return if eligible for a refund.”
There typically are multiple volunteer tax preparers at a particular site, so if questions arise, it’s easy to consult a colleague, Stone said.
AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program
Initiated in 1968, the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program is supported the Internal Revenue Service and the Minnesota Department of Revenue.
Nationwide, 35,000 volunteers work at 5,800 sites, filing 2.6 million returns. In southern Minnesota, including the Twin Cities, there are 129 sites which prepared 36,000 federal and 62,000 state returns for the 2011 tax year.
Last season in Goodhue County, 800 federal and 1,300 Minnesota returns were filed for county taxpayers, said Bob Harlow, Red Wing district coordinator. In addition to four public sites, sites with senior or disabled residents are visited, he added.
These public sites assist taxpayers from Feb. 1 through April 15. Taxpayers may schedule appointments after Jan. 28. Walk-ins will be helped if time permits.
• Red Wing Public Library — Friday afternoons and Saturdays. Call 651-267-3599.
• Red Wing Senior Center — Thursday afternoons and Friday mornings. Call 651-267-3599.
• Lake City Public Library — Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings. Call 651-345-4013.
• Stonehouse Apartments in Cannon Falls — Saturdays. Call 507-263-3893.