If you haven't filed your income-tax return yet and need some help, don't worry – free, qualified assistance is available near you.
The AARP Foundation's Tax-Aide Program offers no-cost services to low- and moderate-income Texans at hundreds of locations for help in preparing and filing federal tax returns.
Bart Hatfield, an AARP volunteer who oversees the Tax-Aide program as its western regional coordinator in Texas, said people don't need to be AARP members to participate, so the program sees a wide variety of folks asking for help.
"Primarily seniors and low-income [people] of all ages," said Hatfield. "A lot of the folks that we serve have some more complicated parts of the law – like the ACA [Affordable Care Act] is very complicated, from a tax point of view. And then the older clients, how much of their Social Security is actually taxed? They're not always simple returns."
Hatfield said Tax-Aide volunteers have set up shop at sites across the state, including neighborhood libraries, malls, banks, community centers and senior centers. Texas is so large that he explained Tax-Aide is broken up into four regions here: the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the Houston area, the Austin-San Antonio corridor and West Texas.
Help is available in most of the towns and cities in each area.
Last year, more than 2,000 Tax-Aide volunteers helped 162,000 Texans get their income taxes done. But Hatfield pointed out that people need to bring all the necessary documents to their appointment to prepare their returns.
"They need to bring a picture ID and Social Security cards for everybody who's on the return," he said. "They also need to bring all their tax documents – their W-2s, 1099-Rs, Social Security statements, all those things. It's also nice if they bring the previous year's return."
The Tax-Aide volunteers are trained by the Internal Revenue Service. And while they don't handle returns with business expenses, home offices or depreciation tables, Hatfield said they are able to handle most other situations.
"The important thing is that we're certified, and we do quality reviews," he added. "In other words, every return is looked at twice. And that's why we have over a 95-percent accuracy rate for our returns – quality over quantity."
This year's tax deadline is April 17. To find a Tax-Aide site in your area, look online at aarp.org/findtaxhelp or call 1-888-AARP-NOW (1-888-227-7669).