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AARP offers tax help to seniors

Theresa Bennett watched closely as Don Driskell worked onBennett’s 2005 tax return Monday at the Lincoln County library.

Bennett said it was the first time she has received tax-returnhelp through a program offered by the American Association ofRetired Persons. The 77-year-old retiree, who earns a little moneyworking with the health department’s Senior Aides program, saidAARP volunteers helped her get back “as much as they could.”

“You don’t make much, you don’t get much,” Bennett said.

Bennett was appreciative of the free service.

“It was nice,” she said.

Bennett is one of more than 50 senior citizens or low-incomeearners who have benefited from the tax return assistance programso far this year.

Services, which began earlier this month, are offered 1-5 p.m.each Monday until April 15 at the library, said Driskell, who isthe Brookhaven coordinator. Driskell, in his second year ascoordinator, said AARP has offered its services for about 15years.

“We did approximately 200 tax returns last year,” Driskellsaid.

The local AARP team consists of five people – four tax returnpreparers and one greeter. Driskell said the tax preparers attendedthree days of training in January to bring them up to date on taxlaw changes.

“We do it for senior citizens 65 and older and low-incomepeople,” Driskell said. “We’re not qualified to do complicatedtaxes at all.”

Driskell said preparers do not sign the individual’s returns buta number designating that AARP help was received is posted on thereturn. He said most people leave happy.

“Most everybody we do gets a little something back,” Driskellsaid.

Driskell mentioned one incident earlier Monday in which someoneended up owing about $2,000. He said there were some family-relatedchanges which resulted in an underpayment of taxes.

Greeter Catherine Dickey said AARP appreciated the libraryproviding the space for the service. She said it is a convenientlocation for those needing help with tax returns.

“It’s efficient, and it’s not time-consuming for them to comedown,” Dickey said.

Billie Goss, of Brookhaven, has used the AARP services forseveral years.

“It’s a big help,” said Goss, who was able to get a small refundlast year. “If you have any questions, you know they’re going to beanswered.”