In Rural New Hampshire, Property Tax-Aide is a Win-Win
With volunteer John Bolton’s help, residents of this New England town can breathe a sigh of relief.
Tuftonboro, New Hampshire, population 2,467, is the kind of place where curling is a popular sport, and where, according to John Bolton, “they roll up the sidewalks at 5 o’clock.”
John would know. He’s lived in Tuftonboro, a picturesque rural town on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee in central New Hampshire, for 50 of his 54 years. For the last three of those years, he’s also been a volunteer tax preparer with AARP Foundation Tax-Aide at the nearby Ossipee Public Library.
During tax season, John and another volunteer prepare taxes for about 200 people — 8% of the town’s population — at the library. That’s where he learned about Tax-Aide’s sister program, Property Tax-Aide, and it’s where he now encourages local residents to return in the spring to find out if they can get more money in their bank accounts.
Property Tax-Aide helps older adults with low income take advantage of property tax refund and credit programs that not only save them money but also help them stay in their homes longer. There are residential property tax refund and credit programs in nearly every state and the District of Columbia, and yet few people know about them — and those who do often struggle to get through the application process.
“A lot of people, if they don’t have to file a tax return, may not know about it,” says John. So he and another volunteer go beyond word of mouth to promote Property Tax-Aide in the local paper and through the Tuftonboro Welfare Department. John even keeps a log of people whose taxes he has prepared through the Tax-Aide program and who might qualify for property tax relief; these taxpayers sign up to be contacted in case they might be eligible for other services from the Tax Aide program. When Property Tax-Aide season opens, typically in the late spring, he calls to let them know they should come in to fill out an application.
“They’re always happy to hear from me,” John says. “For a lot of people, it’s a sigh of relief because they know that money is coming in.” He and his fellow volunteer do more than 100 property tax relief applications each season, returning anywhere from $18,000 to $22,000 a year in total to the people who apply and qualify. “The nice thing about the property tax rebate is that you never have to say, ‘You owe the IRS.’ It’s always good news!”
John became interested in volunteering while he was caring for his father, who died in 2020 after suffering for several years from Alzheimer’s disease. While reading an issue of AARP The Magazine, John noticed an ad recruiting Tax-Aide volunteers. “I needed to get out of the house for a couple of hours a week, so I filled out an application.” Since his father had been a tax preparer for many years, John says, “I was familiar with tax software and forms.”
When Property Tax-Aide launched, his experience with Tax-Aide made it fairly easy to navigate the property tax relief application. “As long as you have a calculator, it doesn’t take that long. You get applicants who qualify about $180 to $200 back for 10 minutes of work. Even doctors don’t make that much!”
“It’s a great way to continue serving people. It feels good to help,” John says, adding that it wouldn’t be possible without the enthusiastic help of the Ossipee Public Library. Together, “we’re helping keep people in their homes until they’re ready to downsize, which gives them a cushion while they decide where they want to live as they get older. It’s an investment of a small amount of time that helps a lot of people. It’s a win-win for everybody.”
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