Clients are asked to bring last year's tax returns; forms related to income from employment, pensions, annuities, Social Security, dividends or other sources; and canceled checks or other paperwork showing payment of state or federal taxes.
Sites will be open Feb. 1 through April 15.
The IRS provides about 25 percent of the laptops and printers used, and all of the software. Most of the equipment comes from the AARP Foundation, which started the Tax-Aide program in 1968. Community centers, libraries and churches are typical locations; each site must be able to accommodate the equipment and have enough space that clients' privacy is maintained. "Confidentiality of our taxpayers is our No. 1 priority — that, and the accuracy of our returns," Crews said.
To ensure accuracy, "every return prepared is reviewed by a second set of eyes," he said. The review system ensures that all data is entered correctly and all tax laws followed.
One of Gonzales' friends, Ray Jimenez, 75, of Taylor, took Gonzales' advice and went to Tax-Aide for help filing his returns last year.
"I was happy with the work they did," he said. "I didn't want to just drop off my paperwork at a business. I like that you sit right down with them. Those guys know what they are doing — the double-checking gave me confidence."
Now Jimenez is recommending the program to others. "I sent my granddaughter and her husband. They're brand-new at filing taxes," he said.
Jimenez also had Tax-Aide assist him in preparing tax returns for his 96-year-old mother, then brought her the completed forms to sign.
"The best part of our job is being able to help somebody who needs help, and the gratitude they show," Crews said.
To find a Tax-Aide site or make an appointment, enter your ZIP code in the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide locator or call 888-227-7669 toll-free.
Keryn Thompson-Kolar is a writer and editor living in Ann Arbor, Mich.