free tax help during covid

As with many other programs, the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program is yet another semi-casualty of the pandemic. While it will be in place this year, in very limited form, in-person help will be mostly curtailed.  But help is still out there for those determined to get it.

Established some 50 plus years ago, the organization has typically operated nationally and at 20 libraries throughout Westchester County from February 1 until April 15 every year.  The program has always run as an “in-person” model, said Bill White, AARP Foundation Tax-Aide, Westchester District Coordinator. In past years, Westchester volunteers have been able assist to thousands of area residents in e-filing their federal returns, even as the pandemic hit in 2020.

For your 2020 tax return, those seeking help should call one of the 20 local libraries that usually operate the program. Even if you’re able to get help, you may need to scan your own documents and provide them electronically.  (We recommend you download the Genius Scan app onto your phone to do the scanning, if at all possible.) The list of items include the following:

• Copy of last year’s federal & state income tax returns;
• W-2 forms showing income from your employer;
• 1099-R forms showing pension or annuity income;
• SSA-1099 forms showing Social Security benefits;
• 1099-DIV, -INT, -G, -MISC, -OID forms showing dividends, interest, NYS tax refund, gambling income, etc.;
• Health Care information received from the Marketplace, if any;
• Any other information concerning your income and deductions;
• Photo ID and Social Security/ITIN cards;
• Bank information, if direct deposit of refund desired

Another option is a new free offering from the AARP Foundation as they try to continue to help people prepare returns. Go to and receive virtual coaching by one of the Tax-Aide volunteers. It’s recommended this service be done on a computer, rather than another digital device.

Some additional information to be aware of when filing your 2020 tax return:

The Covid-19 stimulus checks you received are NOT taxable.

You unemployment checks ARE taxable.

If you’re 65 or older, your standard deduction increases – an extra $1,650 for singles and head of households. Married taxpayers born before January 2, 1956 get an extra $1,300 each.

Those 65 and older get their own tax return: Form 1040-SR, US Tax Return for Seniors.

For 2021, the threshold to deduct medical expenses has permanently returned to 7.5% (down from 10%) of your AGI (adjusted gross income).


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