For the past five years, Sharon Soong has made a difference in her Hyde Park community as a volunteer with AARP Tax-Aide, the free tax assistance and preparation program offered by the AARP Foundation. Each year, from Feb. 1 though Tax Day, Soong helps local residents with basic federal and state income tax returns.
Soong took time out of her busy tax season schedule to talk about the joys and challenges of her volunteer experience with the program.
How did you get started with AARP Tax Aide?
I saw a small blurb in AARP The Magazine, and thought I would give it a try. It seemed like a good fit for my background - I was trained as a social worker and worked for 20 years as a senior analyst for a state agency. I came into the program in January, so there was a steep learning curve before the start of tax season on Feb. 1. Within a month I was working with clients on a one-to-one basis. It’s wonderful that AARP Tax Aide is all volunteer-run; there are so my opportunities to make a difference.
How does this tax season compare so far to previous years?
It has been a slower start this year because of the weather, so we are bracing for a late rush. Right now, we have full appointments for the next few weeks at the Hyde Park site.
Tell us about the neighborhood where you volunteer.
Hyde Park is a busy, diverse inner city area. There is a strong Haitian community here.
Was there a particular client that has made an impression on you?
Last February a returning client came in with her mom, who I helped recover significant funds by filing amended returns. Twelve of their family members died in the Haitian earthquake. It is a visceral experience to sit next to someone who has gone through that firsthand.
Helping them made me see the vulnerability for first generation immigrants, who struggle with the language while also trying to figure out their taxes. Since then, we’ve connected with Catholic Charities to establish a site and recruit volunteers in their ESL classes. The goal is to train people to do this job to help their community in a real way.
What’s your favorite part of volunteering for AARP Tax Aide?
I love doing this work as a volunteer. It keeps me challenged: quite a feat after retirement. Usually rewarding work like this takes a lot of time and commitment, but this is the perfect balance. I enjoy working with the volunteers and returning clients – you learn so much about their lives, so they really rely on you.
Make Your Appointment with AARP Tax-Aide Today
To find an AARP Tax-Aide site in the community, or a neighboring community, go to the online AARP Tax-Aide Site Locator or call 1-888-AARP-NOW (1-888-227-7669).
AARP Tax-Aide also provides services to individuals who are unable to leave their homes. Contact a local AARP Tax-Aide site in your community for details.
Learn More about Volunteering with AARP Tax Aide
AARP Tax-Aide volunteers have been trained in conjunction with the Internal Revenue Service and the Massachusetts Department of Revenue to perform tax counseling services. To learn more about volunteering, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
AARP Tax-Aide is administered by the AARP Foundation in cooperation with the Internal Revenue Service. The AARP Foundation is an affiliated, 501(c)(3) nonpartisan, charitable organization established in 1961.