Tax help available through AARP program

It’s almost income tax time. And while we’re still a few months away from that April deadline, the local AARP is preparing to kick off its annual Tax-Aide program.AARP spokesperson Gloria Hopkins said the program is designed to help people that might not otherwise be able to file a tax return by helping residents make sense of the tax laws and forms that seem to get more and more complicated with each successive year.The program provides free federal tax preparation assistance to those who cannot afford professional tax help — senior citizens, people with disabilities, those that cannot speak English and those with low-to-moderate income.In fact, the program is a necessity for many area residents who can’t afford to have their taxes prepared professionally, and the heart and soul of the operation are volunteers.AARP volunteers explain many special tax credits and deductions and how people may claim them on their tax returns. They help complete returns, as well, right down to any refunds that might be due the taxpayer.“Things are moving along nicely for us,” Hopkins said. “Most of our volunteers from last year are back again this year, which really makes things easier. The one volunteer spot that was vacated has been filled, as well, so we feel really good going into this year's training.”Tax law can quickly become confusing, according to Hopkins, and with so many changes being made from year to year it's easy to miss out many government programs.“There's just so much red tape involved, it's almost impossible for people to keep up with all of it,” said Hopkins. “And if they don't have the money to hire a tax professional, they can be missing out on all kinds of deductions and programs the government offers. This program gives them a chance to sit down with someone who is trained to deal with these things.”Hopkins said the time squeeze to get the changes created by the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act Of 2010 into the IRS computers is just one example of challenges faced by tax preparers this year.“There are a lot of changes to look at this year. The one that is going to affect more filers in the Crossroads is the loss of the non-itemized property taxes,” she said. “Last year, people were able to claim their property taxes without filing an itemized return. Unfortunately, that wasn't renewed this year, so there are going to be a lot of people here that are going to lose that deduction.“Another big change is the IRS won't be mailing out any of the tax booklets like they have in years past. That might have folks that have been doing their taxes on paper thrown off a little. However, the IRS is pushing hard to get people to use the electronic filing. The forms, however, should still be available from the same locations they have been in the past.”Hopkins said area residents planning to use the service should be sure to gather up their financial information before heading to the Senior Center.“People need to be sure to bring all of the pertinent information with them, including a tax booklet if one was received through the mail, W-2 forms and 1099 forms,” said Hopkins. “They also need to bring any forms that show their 2009 earnings and their 2008 tax returns. We also need a social security card for every person named on the return and a photo ID for the person filing.”Participants in the program will be able to e-file their tax returns at no charge.The program will continue each Monday from the start date, Jan. 31, until April 11 at the Senior Center — located at 1901 Simler Dr. in the McMahon-Wrinkle Airpark — from 8 a.m. until noon. For more information, contact Hopkins at 267-6733.