by Carol Higgins Taylor
Special to The Weekly
AARP Maine has a unique opportunity. The state office recently announced that it is looking for a volunteer to be the new AARP Foundation tax-aide state coordinator who will serve as a leader and manager of the Maine Tax-Aide program.
When AARP Foundation Tax-Aide began in 1968 it was one of the first programs to use volunteers to ensure seniors received necessary and important services. In fact, it started with just four volunteers at one site preparing 100 tax returns. Humble beginnings, but not surprising as AARP has a history of starting small but helping millions in the end.
Twelve years later, in 1980, a cooperative agreement was reached with the Internal Revenue Service as part of its Tax Counseling for the Elderly program. It has grown to be the largest volunteer organization preparing tax returns, including, in Maine, state income tax returns.
“We realize that someone might be hesitant to take over a program where they have not previously volunteered. However, we now have a very strong management team and each member of that team is committed to providing all the assistance needed to bring a new state coordinator up to working speed,” said former AARP Foundation Tax-
Aide State Coordinator Curt Bean.
The Tax-Aide volunteers have extensive training and must pass tests to become IRS certified volunteer tax preparers. This free service is open to anyone of low or moderate income, with special attention given to those 60 and older. Approximately four out of five people who turn to AARP Foundation Tax-Aide are in that age group. For many of them, a tax refund could mean not having to choose between paying for groceries and keeping the lights on.
The program truly makes a difference. And the coordinator position is a wonderful volunteer opportunity for the right person.
AARP requires that applicants have experience supervising and implementing programs. Familiarity with tax procedures is helpful, but detailed tax knowledge is not a requirement. A majority of the tasks of a volunteer state coordinator are done via the Internet and in his or her home. The time commitment is greatest in the fall for planning and in the late spring for program assessment. Travel costs are reimbursed. Of course the reward of helping a senior is priceless.
The AARP Foundation Tax-Aide state coordinator will work with a strong, experienced state management team, who are as dedicated as they are warm and friendly. It’s a great combination. The new coordinator will also work with nine district coordinators, and 275 volunteers. Last year, more than 20,000 taxpayers benefited from this program which was available at 70 tax preparation sites across the state.
“Paying taxes can be a confusing and challenging task for many adults in Maine,” Bean said. “It is so rewarding to be able to take that burden off of people’s shoulders during tax season.”
Bean spent time at Eastern Area Agency on Aging, which was a tax site, and helped countless seniors, many of whom walked away with relieved smiles on their faces.
The Tax-Aide volunteers maintain that it is important for seniors to visit them each year even if they have not filed taxes for a while because changes can happen. The volunteers will determine if seniors qualify for benefits such as the earned income credit if they are still working and especially if they have a child living with them. Seniors taking responsibility for grandchildren may be able to claim an additional tax deduction.
If this sounds like the volunteer opportunity you’ve been looking for and you want to learn more, contact Curt Bean, former Maine State coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org; Dan Arnold, current regional coordinator at email@example.com or Joan Jagolinzer, partnership and communication coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carol Higgins Taylor is an advocate for seniors and owns a public relations firm in Bangor. For information, email email@example.com.