Last year, AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteers helped 30,000 Massachusetts residents with basic federal and state income tax returns, and questions. Russell Boutiette, 59, of Sutton himself helped 100 seniors prepare their taxes.
As an AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteer, Russell is a shining example of why the program consistently achieves a significant rate of repeat customers, who say they return year after year due to the knowledge, skill, friendliness and helpfulness of the volunteers. In fact, a recent AARP survey found that 95 percent of AARP Foundation Tax-Aide clients are very satisfied with the service, and 96 percent would be highly likely to recommend it to others needing help.
AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is the largest, volunteer-run, free tax preparation service in the country. This year, hundreds of AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteers are deployed at 250 sites across Massachusetts, including senior centers and libraries.
As tax season officially kicked-off, AARP Massachusetts took the opportunity to ask Russell about his volunteer experience.
Why did you decide to volunteer with AARP Foundation Tax-Aide?
For 23 years, I worked as a tax preparer, teaching tax classes, and representing clients before the IRS. I never had a chance to do volunteer work during my career, so I decided to give back to my community now that I had the chance.
If you could tell a prospective client one reason why he or she should make an appointment with AARP Tax-Aide, what would it be?
You’ll not only get an accurate tax return, you will also get a welcoming preparer who is focused on you and your situation through the entire process.
What do you like most about this volunteer opportunity?
It’s the attitude of the clients. They start by being cautious, or even fearful, about what’s going to happen with their taxes – usually asking the question, “Am I going to owe money?” As the meeting continues, they are happy to provide information, and they become interested in the process. By the end of my review of the tax return(s) with them, they are happy with the work that I’ve done for them. And, even if it does result in them owing money, they understand how it happened and now have information on ways to prevent the same situation next year. I have not had an angry or upset client. They thank me for what I’ve done and often ask if I’ll be there next year to do their taxes.
What is one of your most memorable experiences?
I helped an older couple who came in to do their taxes. The spouse had always done this himself, but he decided he wasn’t capable of continuing to prepare their return – and the other spouse didn’t want to do anything more than sign the finished document. As we went through our meeting, and I prepared their return, the client asked many questions, and provided information about each document I was inputting. Upon completion, our review of the return was thorough, and the client went over every line in detail. When he stood up to leave, he had a smile on his face, and his spouse was calm and happy. They thanked me for all my help – and left contented that they had done the right thing by coming to AARP Foundation Tax-Aide for assistance.
AARP Foundation Tax-Aide already needs volunteers for next year’s tax season, due to a big increase in demand. Would you recommend this volunteer opportunity to others?
Definitely a yes! There is a great personal satisfaction in providing a service that clients are so grateful to receive, which is enhanced even further because it’s for free, with no economic strings attached. Also, AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteers all receive training in conjunction with the Internal Revenue Service and the Massachusetts Department of Revenue.
Find an AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Site Near You
Enter your zip code into the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide site locator or call 1-888-AARP NOW (1-888-227-7669).
Learn More about Volunteering with AARP
The AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program in Massachusetts needs your help! If you want to get involved as a volunteer tax preparer, or help coordinate activities in your area, email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
[Photo by 401(K) 2013/Flickr]