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Volunteers to Help 50,000 Arizonans File Their Taxes

1040 tax document with a calculator on top and glasses and a pen on a table

Over two decades, Janelle Riedl has guided the growth of the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide location in Prescott, with volunteers helping other residents file more than 5,300 returns in 2019.

The program’s growing popularity in Arizona made it easy for the 67-year-old longtime volunteer to convince the owners of Prescott Gateway Mall that donating a storefront where people can get free tax assistance year-round would boost business.

“I showed them our statistics for the previous five years,” recalled Riedl, a Tax-Aide district coordinator and state training specialist. “They said, ‘OK, can you do my taxes, too?’ I said, ‘Absolutely.’ ”

GET HELP: Find a Tax-Aide Site

The Prescott site is one of about 80 Tax-Aide locations across Arizona, where more than 1,000 IRS-trained volunteers helped 50,000 people file federal and state returns last year.

Nationally, nearly 36,000 AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteers enabled 2.5 million people to qualify for more than $1.4 billion in returns. In its 52nd year, the program focuses on providing free tax preparation to Americans 50 and older who can’t afford professional services, though anyone can get help, regardless of age or income.

“As a former IRS employee, I know the need for free tax assistance in every community to ensure taxpayers do not overpay and claim all credits due them,” Riedl said.

Dayton Silver, one of Riedl’s volunteers in Prescott, said most of those he helps make $30,000 a year or less and about half are under age 65.

A retired Air Force colonel and former California resident, Silver, 73, said he enjoys the challenge of learning new tax rules each year and handling a variety of situations.

“I’ve been volunteering here three years and love it,” he said. “It’s interesting.”

No experience necessary

Tax-Aide spans both geographical and generational boundaries.

“My mother, who’s 94, used to have her taxes done by Tax-Aide in Albuquerque,” said Sue Tucker, 71, of Prescott, who has volunteered for six years. “If you like numbers and working with people, it’s a great way to give back to your community. I go home every day grateful for what I have.”

Through sites in Phoenix, Flagstaff and Tucson, Tax-Aide reaches out to underserved populations, including Native Americans, veterans, and low-income rural and urban residents, said Susan Key, Arizona state coordinator, 71, of Glendale. The program is always looking for more volunteers, she said.

Tax-Aide preparers undergo background screenings and receive training and IRS certification, so no accounting experience is needed. All returns are also checked by a second preparer.

They can process most types of individual returns but don’t handle more complicated situations, such as rental properties. Volunteers work with clients at senior centers, libraries, churches and other temporary sites.

People should bring a photo ID, Social Security card, last year’s returns and 2019 tax-year documents. Most Arizona locations are open until the end of tax season. Some require appointments.

To learn more about volunteering or find a nearby Tax-Aide location, go to aztax-aide.org, email info@aztax-aide.org or call 888-227-7669.

Miriam Davidson is a writer living in Tucson.

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