free tax help from aarp!

For easily 25 years now, Westchester seniors have been able to get their tax returns processed and filed for free. A program established by the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide organization 50 years ago is running strong in 20 libraries and other sites across the county. All you need is your 2017 paperwork and, at times, a little patience. You’ll be seen on a first-come, first-served basis.

How does the program work?

Each fall, about 100 volunteer preparers hit the books and refresh themselves on tax law, making sure they understand any recent legislative extenders and new directives for the 2018 tax season. After a further seven days of formal lectures and hands-on computer instruction in January, they took an advanced test for IRS certification. Some got certified for additional aspects of tax law.

Seniors who already know about the program have rounded up their paperwork for the 2017 tax year (1099s, W-2s, expenses, ACA documents, etc.), their social security cards, a photo ID, and a copy of last year’s return, and have headed to one of the local libraries and community centers that host the program. Once there, greeters have assigned them to the next available preparer.

If you’ve never experienced this process before, expect not only to be asked a whole lot of questions to guarantee the best handling of your particular situation, but to participate actively while your information is entered into the computer. The preparer will then ask a colleague to review his or her work for typos and other kinds of errors, and when it’s good to go – and you’ve approved it! – the return will be sent off electronically to the IRS and to New York State (or any other state site). You’ll then be on your way with a printed copy for your records and information relating to your refund or any balance you’ll have to send in.

Do the volunteers prepare anyone’s return?

The program is designed to reach low- to middle-income taxpayers, with some emphasis on those over 60. Of course, there are some out-of-scope issues the volunteers are not allowed to handle (e.g., Schedule C businesses with net losses, employees, depreciation, or rental property, etc.).

The program started up on February 1st this year, but you’ll have until April 17th to enjoy the service. Don’t wait until the last minute!

(Click here to find sites in Westchester County that offer the tax service.)

Julie Woodward

Julie Woodward

Julie Woodward is a volunteer for the Westchester Library System’s "Demystifying Medicare" presentations and a certified preparer in the AARP Foundation Tax-aide program, where she specializes in how the Affordable Care Act is handled in tax returns.
Julie Woodward

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