Each year, the AARP Foundation’s Tax-Aide program provides free tax preparation for thousands across the country. Last season in Utah, Tax-Aide volunteers served 6,000 people throughout the state, preparing returns and answering questions for some who did not need to file. Nationwide, Tax-Aide found $1.3 billion in refunds to consumers who used their services.
Last year 105 Utah Tax-Aide volunteers provided assistance at 30 sites across the state, from Tremonton to St. George. Organizers are hoping to expand the program for 2015, recruiting more volunteers and increasing the ability to serve more rural communities. That’s where you come in!
Who volunteers? Anyone with a working knowledge of computers and willingness to be trained on how to prepare simple tax returns can volunteer. Volunteers include accountants and IRS agents as well as school teachers and real estate agents. Volunteers stay with the program year after year because they enjoy helping people, staying in the know on the latest tax law developments, and the camaraderie of their fellow volunteers. Many are moved by the profound appreciation expressed by taxpayers they’ve helped.
What kind of training is involved? New volunteers receive training for two days a week over a three week period in mid-November. All Tax-Aide volunteers participate in a two-day training on the new tax laws and any other developments in the tax area that is needed to prepare basic taxes in January. Training is limited to completing relatively simple returns; those with complex issues such as rental property are turned away and referred to other tax preparation experts, as Tax-Aide volunteers don't have training in preparing complicated returns. There is no need to worry about being in over your head as volunteers never work alone--there is always someone there to help with the process or refer the taxpayer to services that can be helpful.
All volunteers are required to pass an IRS test each year to become certified to do the work. Once certified, new volunteers are assigned to Tax-Aide sites, based on community need as well as schedule and location preference of the volunteer. You won’t be on your own, either. Newcomers to the program are mentored and assisted by experienced volunteers, and all returns are quality reviewed to ensure accuracy.
How many hours will I be needed? Tax-Aide asks for a minimum commitment of 40 hours at a site over the 10-week period from February 1 through April 15, but volunteers are welcome to work more hours if they are available and interested. Many volunteers work two or more days per week (about 4-5 hours per day).
Are there other ways to help? If you’d like to help but don’t want to be involved with the actual tax preparation, the program is also seeking volunteers to help set up computers and printer networks, ensure taxpayer data security, assist with communications and help as greeters at the program sites.
If you’re interested in volunteering, register at http://bit.ly/1hs7tPR.