Wanted: Tax-time numbers crunchers

AARP Tax-Aide program seeks volunteers for 2013 season

AARP needs some numbers crunchers.

The organization’s Tax-Aide program that helps taxpayers prepare and file their federal and state income tax returns seeks volunteers for the upcoming 2013 tax season.

Stillwater resident Jim McKinney said the reason why the local Tax-Aide program needs volunteers is simple.

“We lost a couple of people. One of them died and the other moved to Montana,” he said. “We’d like to bring in more people.”

Tax-Aide volunteers receive free tax training and limited reimbursement for qualified program-related expenses, McKinney said. Preparation for the 2013 tax season begins this month and interested persons can call Community Thread at 651-439-7434 for more information, he added.

Those interested in becoming a Tax-Aide volunteer receive study materials, attend classes designed by the Internal Revenue Service on preparing and filing federal and state tax returns and must pass a certification exam.

Once certified, Tax-Aide volunteers prepare and file returns from Feb. 1 through mid-April, McKinney said.

“In Stillwater, we operate out of Community Thread,” he said, adding that Tax-Aide volunteers work four to five hours on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

“We try to cover the hours that are most convenient to retired folks,” he said.

McKinney added that Tax-Aide volunteers spend Wednesdays during tax season visiting senior citizens living in Valley senior housing developments.

McKinney and Stillwater Senior Center Program Director Karla Bataglia said Tax-Aide volunteers helped about 800 St. Croix Valley taxpayers file their state and federal tax returns last year.

“We’re supposed to be helping retired people but we also help low-income residents,” he said.

“The way AARP puts it, it (tax preparation) is offered to low- and middle-income taxpayers,” Bataglia said. “We don’t ask for a number. If they feel they qualify, they can make an appointment.”

Bataglia adds that Community Thread will start taking appointments for the Tax-Aide program in January.

“Appointments are necessary for all services,” she said.

McKinney stresses that AARP Tax-Aide volunteers only handle the basic IRS Form 1040 return and all schedules that go with it.

“There are certain (tax) forms we can’t fill,” he said. “Some of it can get fairly complicated.”

Bataglia said persons making appointments with Tax-Aide volunteers must come prepared with required documents.

“People do need to bring some information,” she said. “They need a photo I.D., a Social Security card or other official documentation for themselves and their dependants, a copy of their 2011 income tax returns, and any homebuyer information. People should come prepared with information.”

Bataglia said Tax-Aide volunteers can also help renters file their state rent-credit forms after tax season.

AARP’s Tax-Aide program volunteers come from a variety of jobs, McKinney said.

“We have CPAs and one gal who worked for the IRS for 25 years,” he said.

And he stressed that AARP’s Tax-Aide program is offered free to those who qualify for tax-preparation assistance.

“This is voluntary. We can’t take any money. The IRS won’t let us take any money,” he said. “We tell people, ‘If you really appreciate us, you can give a donation to Community Thread.’ ”