Few of us welcome tax season, but AARP takes some of the sting out of the annual ritual of digging up all those receipts.
Year after year, 36,000 AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteers donate as many as 40 hours a week — and some give even more — for 10 weeks to help mostly older, low- to moderate-income individuals prepare their tax returns, free of charge.
The payoff? Last year these trained volunteers helped people obtain $1.3 billion in refunds and more than $228 million in earned income tax credits by preparing a whopping 2.6 million tax returns.
Almost four out of five taxpayers who were assisted were 60 or older. Two-thirds of them were women. And the average income on all returns filed was $23,000. For many, the spouse who had always prepared the taxes had died or become incapacitated.
One woman, who described herself as "very economically disadvantaged (homeless and jobless)," wrote a note of thanks to Tax-Aide volunteers for helping her family "get monies owed to us that we might otherwise have had to forgo." We also heard from a man who expressed his appreciation and explained that "after the foreclosure, bankruptcy and job loss, it was really hard to pay for any [tax] service or software."
The U.S. Tax Code seems to get more complicated every year, and struggling taxpayers may overpay or fail to file for credits they deserve. Tax-Aide volunteers unravel the mysteries behind everything from missing forms to foreclosure snags — and they do it with "accuracy, professionalism … and friendliness," according to thank-you notes from grateful clients.
This is one of my favorite AARP Foundation programs. It's also a volunteer favorite. Ninety-seven percent of the Tax-Aide volunteers we surveyed say the most important part of the experience is the satisfaction they get from helping others. The taxpayers they assist are equally enthusiastic: 95 percent said they were very satisfied with the service they received. Many of them return year after year for assistance.
To find out more about getting help with your own taxes, visit aarp.org/findtaxhelp.
We need taxpayers to know that they don't have to fend for themselves, because our wonderful volunteers are here to help them.
Have a question about AARP: Write to Ask Rob, AARP, 601 E St. NW, Washington, DC 20049, or email email@example.com.