The end of January for many area residents meant an avalanche of tax related documents arriving, be it via email or more tradition snail mail. W-2’s. 1099’s, and countless other documents required to build the financial profile required by the IRS and the State of Oregon to collect your taxes.
Once that pile of paper is assembled, now what? For some it is a few lines on a form and off it goes. Others have complicated tax issues and may need to seek the help of a tax preparation professional. Then there are the rest of us, those who are bewildered by the changes, paralyzed by fear of “getting it wrong,” or just plain wanting some help it getting done and out of our lives for another year. For us, there is fee-free preparation from the AARP Tax-Aide program.
“We are all trained volunteers,” said Stacey Wilson, area coordinator for the program in Columbia County. “We go through a through training program that is updated each season and have to pass an examination.”
In Columbia County, those volunteers are available through April 15 at three locations. Two are in St. Helens and one in Scappoose. Those living in the Rainier and Clatskanie areas, Wilson says there is no issue with crossing the Columbia and using a location in the Longview-Kelso area.
Wilson said the program would love to have a location in the Rainier and Clatskanie area, but lacks volunteers this year.
“We need at least two in each location as they audit each other’s work for accuracy,” she said. “We did at one time have volunteers in north county, but those people are no longer available.”
Being a volunteer requires no special background or skills, just an interest helping others their taxes.
“It is pretty much too late to volunteer for this year,” said Wilson, “but there is always a need and next year will be here before we know it.”
A link to Tax-Aide volunteer information is at the end of this article.
For those desiring to access the services of the AARP Tax-Aide program, there are few hard and fast rules about participation. There is no fee, and AARP membership is not required. People of all ages can use the service.
The first step to using AARP Tax-Aide is to make an appointment.
“The best way to do that is to contact one of the sites. At that time, the person you talk with will inform you of what documents you will need to bring with you,” said Wilson.
Once you arrive, plan to spend about two hours with the volunteer preparer, who will not only compile your return, but file it as well, including state taxes.
Wilson cautions that the service is can do some complicated filings, but that there are limits.
“We are not trained to do taxes that involve business owners or someone who has rental property” she said.
Columbia County locations:
33342 SW Meadow, St. Helens
375 S 15th St, St. Helens
Columbia Community Mental Health
58646 McNulty Way, St. Helens
Clatsop County locations:
Astoria Senior Center
1111 Exchange St.
Seaside Community Center
1225 Avenue A
Cowlitz County (Longview-Kelso)
Longview Public Library
1600 Louisiana St.
Last year in Oregon, 1,095 AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteers helped file more than 45,000 federal and state tax returns. Oregonians received $48,474,898 in refunds and an additional $11 million in Earned Income Tax Credits. The program is offered at approximately 130 locations throughout the state, including senior centers, libraries and other convenient locations.
To find an AARP Foundation Tax-Aide site or more information, including which documents to bring to the tax site, visit aarpfoundation.org/taxhelp or call 1-888-AARPNOW (1-888-227-7669). AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is offered in conjunction with the IRS.