PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The state coordinator for the AARP Tax-Aide program is hoping that the spirit of holiday-season generosity will inspire people to assist the initiative this year.
AARP Tax-Aide, the nation’s largest, free, volunteer-run tax counseling and preparation service, needs volunteers to help people prepare their taxes.
Each year from February through April 15, AARP Tax-Aide volunteers prepare federal, state and local tax returns for middle and low-income taxpayers, with special attention to those age 60 and older.
The program offers free one-on-one tax preparation, as well as assistance on the telephone and Internet to help individuals prepare basic tax forms. AARP Tax-Aide is administered through the AARP Foundation in cooperation with the IRS.
According to the AARP, a national survey found that roughly half of the nation’s adult population lacks the most basic skills to prepare a tax return.
Joan Jagolinzer, state coordinator for the program, said Wednesday that last year, students from Northern Maine Community College helped more than 400 taxpayers prepare and file their returns.
This year, however, things have changed.
“In the past, we had a professor at NMCC to help us recruit student volunteers for the program and kind of oversee it for us,” said Jagolinzer. “Now, he has retired, and NMCC representatives told us that with the increased enrollment that they have seen and the faculty change, the college no longer has the space or ability to do the program.”
Jagolinzer said that AARP Tax-Aide used to find 15 or 20 volunteers from NMCC, most of whom where involved with the college’s business program.
“The students would be encouraged to volunteer for this, because it looked great on their resume,” she said. “We always had great support from those students.”
Jagolinzer said the University of Maine at Presque Isle has provided some assistance. The college will provide the program with space and equipment, but they do not have a faculty member to oversee the program. Volunteers are needed for the new site.
“We will take as many volunteers are we can get,” she said. “To qualify, you have to go through a brief training, and we want to get as many people in place as we can as soon as we can. It may look like tax season is a long time away, but we start helping prepare taxes in February.”
The training is provided by AARP and includes training in tax law procedures, preparing tax forms, and using tax preparation software.
Once volunteers come forward, the program will accept individuals who want to have their taxes prepared by appointment.
Jagolinzer said that if the program cannot gather enough volunteers, many people who normally rely on the program “will either not file their tax returns and-or go to a paid preparer.”
“That means they will be spending money that many of them do not have,” she said.
“The volunteers who help us with these really are like February Santas,” said Jagolinzer. “They help meet a need in the community. This is a great opportunity for a student or a retired person, or anyone who has some time that they want to give to the community.”
Jagolinzer said officials are still working to find a coordinator for the program.
For more information about becoming a local AARP Tax-Aide volunteer, call 883-8415 or go to www.aarp.org/taxaide.