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Texas

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Spanish-speaking volunteers needed to prepare returns for low- and moderate-income people

AARP's Tax-Aide finds volunteers in Texas' Hispanic community

Lupe Gonzalez, an AARP Foundation Tax-Aide counselor, volunteers twice a week at the Arlington Public Library. The program could use more bilingual volunteers in Texas, which is 38 percent Hispanic. — Photo by Misty Keasler

En español | After retiring from his job as an auditor with the federal government, Lupe Gonzalez knew he still wanted to do something that would use his analytical skills.

In 2003, Gonzalez started volunteering as an AARP Foundation Tax-Aide counselor in Arlington.

See also: Volunteer with AARP Foundation Tax-Aide — Jorge Ramos.

"I get everyone from college students to 80-year-olds. I volunteer because these people can't afford to go anywhere else," he said. "I plan to keep volunteering until I just can't do it anymore."

Gonzalez, 68, is one of more than 2,200 Tax-Aide volunteers in Texas who work out of more than 300 sites in places such as libraries, community centers and senior centers. Last year, Tax-Aide volunteers helped nearly 160,000 Texans file their returns.

Begun in 1968, Tax-Aide is a nationwide program provided in cooperation with the IRS. Today, over 35,000 trained volunteers nationwide help more than 2.5 million taxpayers file their taxes annually. Tax-Aide's target audience is low- and moderate-income people 60 and older, but it is open to everyone.

"It's a needed service because the IRS is going towards electronic filing, and a lot of the people who come to us don't have access to computers," said Ron Craig, the regional volunteer coordinator for the program in Texas, Colorado and New Mexico. "We are their access."

Increase in Hispanic clients

Craig said he has seen an increase in the number of Hispanics using the Tax-Aide service, but there are no specific figures because the program doesn't ask for the ethnicity of the taxpayer. Hispanics are the largest minority in Texas, with 38 percent of the state's 25.1 million residents. African Americans make up about 12 percent.

"We do have a push to recruit volunteers from the minority population," Craig said.

David Baltimore, a Tax-Aide coordinator responsible for 72 of the state's 254 counties, said the program has had some difficulty recruiting bilingual volunteers.

Next: Volunteer training begins in January. >>

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