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AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Turns 55

America’s largest free preparation service has helped millions save billions

spinner image volunteer advising client on their taxes
PETER OUMANSKI

In 1968, four volunteers in Florida opened the first-ever AARP Foundation Tax-Aide site. Since then, over 75 million Americans have had their taxes prepared by Tax-Aide, making it the largest free tax-preparation program in the country.

Last year, more than 25,000 volunteers all across the country helped more than 1.2 million people with their tax forms, recovering more than $1 billion in refunds.

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And this year, the program is poised to shake off some COVID-era challenges and return to more places, offering a host of ways to get help with your taxes.

For the thousands of volunteers who make it happen, it is a critical mission to help people get their tax refunds.

“These people’s lives are in our hands. For some of them, getting a $3,000 refund means the extra cash they need to afford a used car so they can get a job and get their family out of poverty,” says Jeanne “Sam” Helmrick, 69, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, who has been a volunteer for eight years. “It’s very rewarding. It’s real contact volunteering.”

The program lost some volunteers in the past couple of years due to COVID restrictions. But a successful recruitment effort in the fall brought in several thousand new participants, generating real momentum to get the program back up to pre-pandemic levels of around 36,000 volunteers.

Here’s the outlook for the current tax season.

There will be about 4,000 sites nationwide.

Tax-Aide started providing preparation services in February and will continue through the filing deadline in April.

With changes first brought about by the pandemic, there are now seven ways to have your taxes prepared. See which one fits you best.

1. In-person visit

A Tax-Aide volunteer prepares taxes on-site in one visit.

2. One-visit scan

The taxpayer visits a Tax-Aide site, where their tax documents are digitized and stored in the IRS-provided software used to prepare their return. Tax-Aide volunteers then prepare the return remotely. The taxpayer works with a volunteer online to finalize the return, file it and have it sent to the taxpayer via secure transmission.

3. Two-visit scan

The taxpayer visits a Tax-Aide site, where a digital copy of their tax documents is created and stored in the IRS-provided software used to prepare their return. Tax-Aide volunteers then prepare the return remotely. During a second visit, the taxpayer works with a volunteer to finalize the return and obtain a printed copy.

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4. Drop-off

The taxpayer visits a Tax-Aide site and leaves their tax documents with an IRS-certified volunteer. The tax return is prepared by Tax-Aide volunteers working remotely. During a second visit, the taxpayer works with a volunteer to finalize the return and file it. The taxpayer leaves with a printed copy of the return and their original documents.

5. No site visit

The taxpayer creates digital copies of their tax documents and uploads them to the IRS-provided software used to prepare the return. Tax-Aide volunteers prepare the return remotely. The taxpayer works with a volunteer online to finalize the return, file it and have it sent to them via secure transmission.

6. Coaching model

The taxpayer prepares their own return and can leverage support from an IRS-certified volunteer to help them along the way no matter where they are in the process.

7. Self-preparation

The taxpayer fully prepares their own return using a software product that has been made available through our website.

Learn more about the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program.

Or, call 888-AARPNOW (888-227-7669).

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