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AARP volunteers offer help with tax returns

Samuel J. Newsom of Sontag has been doing his taxes with theAmerican Association of Retired People’s Tax-Aide service for about10 years now.

“There’s a lot of history sitting at this table,” the 80 yearold said of the table where he sat with 72-year-old Tax-Aidevolunteer Carolyn Nelson.

Newsom is just one of those taking advantage of the free taxhelp program that began Monday at the Lincoln County PublicLibrary.

Tax-Aide is the nation’s largest volunteer-run tax preparationand assistance program. It is open to those in the low- andmiddle-income brackets, and gives special attention to taxpayers 60years or older.

“It started as a tax service for the elderly,” said DistrictCoordinator Bill Parks. “Now we do everyone, but if we have a largegroup, the preference falls to the seniors.”

In Brookhaven, Tax-Aide will be at the library every Monday fromFeb. 5 through April 17. Assistance will be offered from 1 to 5p.m. on those days.

The counselors will help people with questions involving thecomplexities of the Internal Revenue System income tax laws, whichforms to use, where to report income and which credits anddeductions apply to particular situations.

Last year, over 300 people in the area were served by thetrained volunteer professionals in the program. Last year therewere four trained professionals who put in 345 hours ofcounseling.

“They go through training in the first week of January, thenthey take a certification test,” said Parks. “They’re certified todo up to a certain level of taxes, but we may recommend you to goto a paid tax preparer if your taxes are too in-depth.”

Nationally, the program enlists over 32,000 volunteers at 8,500sites and offers electronic filing and online counseling services.Locally, though, most of the work is done by hand, and thecounseling is done face-to-face.

“They said we could e-file here,” said Nelson. “But if we didthat, I wouldn’t be getting to use my brain.”

In order to take advantage of the program, participants mustassemble the basic information needed on any tax form, includingnames and social security numbers of all filers and theirdependents, a copy of last year’s income tax returns, and anypaperwork pertaining to income and deductions.