Dave Martz is a numbers guy. It’s a skill set he uses to full effect as a volunteer district coordinator for AARP Foundation Tax-Aide.
Dave, 74, started off his career in accounting, then moved into other areas of finance. When he retired after 36 years in the aerospace industry, he says, “I didn't want to start another career at that point — but I thought could do some taxes on the side.”
Then he ran into someone he knew through work who invited him to become a Tax-Aide volunteer. “They said, ‘Why don't you come and help us with taxes?’” he says, “and that's how I got into this whole thing.”
Tax-Aide is the largest free, volunteer-based tax assistance and preparation program in the U.S. The complexities of the U.S. tax code mean that many taxpayers overpay, turn to services they can't afford, or don't file — missing out on credits and deductions they've earned. But through Tax-Aide, which focuses on taxpayers who are over 50 and have low to moderate income, they have access to in-person and virtual tax preparation, free of charge.
Dave and his wife Kathy, who also retired in 2008, signed up as volunteer tax preparers and began volunteering the following year. Today, as a district coordinator for Tax-Aide in downtown Denver, Dave oversees volunteer activities for five sites.
Before the pandemic, he had 100 volunteers distributed among the sites; now, he manages the same five sites with just 68. “It’s hard getting the volunteers to come back,” he says, primarily because of lingering concerns about COVID-19. So Dave also does his own recruiting for the five sites.
“In the past, that meant I went out and stomped the bushes, and I told people I knew and people I had worked with,” he says, noting that online signups and other technological changes have shifted that responsibility off his shoulders. Not all of it, though.
“I still get calls from people. And hopefully by the time I get done with those conversations, I'll convince 'em that they can do it,” Dave says. “That's the hard part. I have to be a salesman.” And sometimes, he or Kathy will fill in when one of his sites is short a tax preparer.
But the most important thing he does is make sure his volunteers are trained and certified before each tax season begins. Tax-Aide volunteers are trained and IRS-certified every year to make sure they know about and understand the latest changes and additions to the tax code.
“Taxes have become more and more difficult for people,” Dave says. “We cater to a lot of seniors, people in their 70s and 80s. They don't know how to use computers a lot of times, or they don't have the access. Sometimes it's just too much for them to deal with.”
After 14 years as a Tax-Aide volunteer, and even with the complications caused by the pandemic, Dave keeps coming back, using his understanding of numbers to serve people who genuinely need his help.
“Taxes are not easy. It's more complicated than ever, and everyday people can't just file their taxes anymore,” he says. “But I can do that. I can help 'em. I can train people to do it and do it well. And thus, I'm giving to the community.
“This is a talent that I have, a God-given talent that I can still do,” he adds. “And as long as I can still do it and give to someone who obviously cannot do it, who struggles with it, then I get the joy and satisfaction that I'm helping all these people get what they deserve.”
Learn more about AARP Foundation Tax-Aide and how to become a volunteer.
Read more stories about how our programs have helped people find hope, and about the volunteers who give so much of themselves to help others.