"These are people who work all year. If they don't know to file taxes or that they can take certain deductions, or if dealing with the government in general is a fear for them, they lose out," she said.
The ultimate goal is education, she said. "It is part of the growing process to help them become self-sufficient, teach their children and serve their community."
Tax-Aide was formed in 1968, and today processes about 2.6 million returns around the nation each year.
McClean said the program is "up close and personal. That's the best part about it. For example, a single mom with three kids is making $24,000 a year, and she is struggling. You tell her she's going to get a $6,840 refund. Right then and there you are Wonder Woman, you are Superman. You are more important to her than the president of the United States. And you feel so good that they look upon you as a miracle worker."
Tax counselors are recruited beginning in October. In December, volunteers study tutorials to help them learn tax law. In-class training and testing for certification takes place in January in time for the Feb. 1 opening of Tax-Aide sites.
Visit the Tax-Aide website to to find out more about the program, find a site near you or to become a volunteer for the 2012 tax season. You can also call toll-free 1-888-AARPNOW (1-888-227-7669).
Cynthia Pasquale is a freelance writer living in Denver.