Tax season cometh: Aids getting out pens, pads to help you file

While the U.S. government's self-built “fiscal cliff” may theoretically be behind Crossroads residents, another time filled with red tape and legalese is just on the horizon, as tax season prepares to get into full swing.Despite the pitfalls of tax preparations and filing options, area residents won't be forced to face the task alone, as the volunteers with the annual AARP Tax-Aide program will be ready to lend a helping hand weekly until the April deadline.According to AARP program coordinator Ray Alexander, he and his team of volunteers will begin classes to prepare for the tax season Jan. 14, with the team prepared to begin assisting local residents with filing their taxes Jan. 28.“I have one volunteer from last year returning and two new ones, so things are shaping up nicely,” Alexander said. “We'll have approximately seven volunteers ready to go by the time we begin the program.”While Alexander said he's pleased with the number of volunteers willing to donate their time for the program, he said he's always looking for more help.“We're in pretty good shape right now, but that doesn't mean one of our volunteers won't have an emergency or be unable to help out,” he said. “So, we're always looking for more folks willing to donate their time. I'd be happy to talk to prospective volunteers and set things up so they can either help or even back up the people we already have. You can never have too much help.”Alexander said this year's program will operate very similar to years past.“The AARP program provides free federal tax preparation assistance to people who cannot afford professional tax help, such as seniors, people with disabilities, those that don’t speak English and people with low-to-moderate income,” Alexander added. “AARP volunteers explain many special tax credits and deductions and how people may claim them on their tax returns. These volunteers help people complete their returns, right down to any refunds that may be due them.”While the process is fairly simple, Alexander said the red tape coming out of Washington, D.C., didn't necessarily end with avoidance of the fiscal cliff.“Right now, it's rather unclear when we'll be able to start transmitting returns,” he said. “Because the fiscal cliff went down to the wire, the government is just now printing much of the law books and manuals necessary for this year's tax season. We'll be starting class on Monday, regardless, but it's a bit unclear right now whether the whole deadline situation will effect when we can begin transmitting returns.“People need to be sure to bring all of the pertinent information with them, including W-2 forms and 1099 forms, when they come in to see us. They also need to bring any forms that show their 2012 earnings and their 2011 tax returns. We also need a social security card for every person named on the return and a photo ID for the person filing.”The program will begin Monday, Jan. 28 and continue each Monday through April 8 at the Big Spring Senior Center — located at 1901 Simler Dr. in the McMahon-Wrinkle Airpark — from 8 a.m. until noon. For more information, contact Alexander at 263-4992.