By Mike Festa
It’s that time of year again. Yes, it’s tax time. More than 600 volunteers are ready and waiting to help older Massachusetts residents with basic federal and state tax returns, for free. Each year, AARP Foundation Tax-Aide, the largest, volunteer-run, free tax preparation program in the country, operates right here in the commonwealth, with 239 locations across the state.
“Last year, AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteers helped more than 40,000 Massachusetts residents with tax returns and questions,” said Linda Fitzgerald, state president of AARP Massachusetts, which serves 800,000 members age 50 and older in the commonwealth. “Over and over, the exceptional quality of service provided by these dedicated volunteers earns the program high marks in customer satisfaction.”
For those with low to moderate incomes, our volunteers can help identify all the tax credits and deductions for which you may qualify. Tom Ligon, the volunteer state coordinator for AARP Foundation Tax-Aide, told me, “Nobody is more grateful than a senior with low-income who just found us, was expecting to get no money back on his or her return, but gets a refund thanks to the ‘Circuit Breaker’ tax credit.”
Often overlooked, the Circuit Breaker tax credit is available to Massachusetts property owners and renters who are age 65 and older and meet certain criteria. According to Ligon, the credit may even amount to a few thousand dollars, if the taxpayer is eligible but has not taken advantage of it for the past few years. “Property tax is a real burden on seniors,” he said, “so the Circuit Breaker is a big help. We can file an amended return for a taxpayer up to three years.” Taxpayers can get a Circuit Breaker credit of up to $1,030 on their 2013 returns.
Trained in conjunction with the Internal Revenue Service and the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, our volunteers are well versed in tax rules. In fact, they can also help you with these programs:
•Energy Efficiency Credits, which may be available to qualifying Bay State residential property owners.
•Schedule HC, which is proof of health insurance coverage, must be completed by all Massachusetts residents when filing taxes.
With a team of knowledgeable, skilled, friendly and helpful volunteers, you can’t go wrong. Because of this, AARP Foundation Tax-Aide consistently achieves a significant rate of repeat customers. In fact, surveys have found that 95 percent of our clients are very satisfied with the service, and 96 percent would be highly likely to recommend it to others needing assistance.
And, yes, it really is free.
Before meeting with an AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteer, all you need to do is gather together some basic information. Then, bring the following documents with you to the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide site:
•Copy of last year’s income tax returns;
•W-2 forms from each employer;
•Unemployment compensation statements;
•SSA-1099 form if you were paid Social Security benefits
•1099-HC form if you have private health insurance;
•All 1099 forms (1099-INT, 1099-DIV, 1099-misc.,) showing interest and/or dividends as well as documentation showing the original purchase price of your sold assets;
•1099R forms if you received a pension or annuity;
•All receipts or canceled checks if itemizing deductions.
To find a Tax-Aide location in your community, call 888-AARP-NOW (888-227-7669) or visit www.aarp.org/ma.