By Mike Festa, State Director, AARP Massachusetts
Tax filing season is upon us, and AARP can help! Approaching its 50th year, Tax-Aide offers free tax filing help to anyone, especially those 50 and older, who can’t afford a tax preparation service. Tax-Aide volunteers make a difference in their communities by assisting many older, lower-income taxpayers who might otherwise miss out on the credits and deductions they’ve earned. AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteers are trained and IRS-certified each year to ensure they know about and understand the latest changes and additions to the U.S. Tax Code. You do not have to be an AARP member nor be retired to use this free service.
AARP Foundation Tax-Aide has grown remarkably since its inaugural team of just four volunteers in 1968. The program now involves nearly 35,000 volunteers and serves 2.7 million taxpayers annually at more than 5,000 sites nationwide with free tax help.
AARP Foundation operates the AARP Tax-Aide program under a cooperative agreement with the IRS. To help you complete your tax forms, AARP’s trained and IRS-certified volunteers will see personal information that you give them about you and your finances. This information is strictly confidential. They will not share your information with anyone except as necessary to accurately file your tax returns or as otherwise required by law.
Last year, 680 AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteers helped more than 40,000 Massachusetts residents file their federal and state tax returns. The program is offered at approximately 124 sites in Massachusetts (and over 5,000 locations nationwide) including senior centers, libraries and other convenient locations.
In 2017, AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteers helped 2.5 million people navigate tax codes, ensure proper credits and deductions, and file their federal and state tax returns. Taxpayers who used AARP Foundation Tax-Aide in 2017 received $1.37 billion in income tax refunds and more than $222 million in Earned Income Tax Credits (EITCs). They also avoided any tax preparation fees and pitches for high-interest tax credit or refund loans.
Because of the complexity of the U.S. Tax Code, struggling taxpayers over 50 may overpay their taxes or have to rely on expensive and, for too many, unaffordable professional tax preparation services. Many have particularly difficult tax situations, including:
- Retirees whose previous experience with tax returns was limited to wages often face new provisions and complex forms to determine the taxable portion of their retirement income, different standard deduction amounts, permissible health care deductions and, if they sell their house, treatment of capital gains.
- For some people over 50, the spouse who had always prepared the taxes dies or becomes incapacitated, leaving the other overwhelmed and grief-stricken.
- Many people don’t know about the tax credits they may qualify for. Tax-Aide’s services make it easier for older, low-income taxpayers to file their tax returns and get the credits and deductions they deserve.
The program runs from February 1 through early April. Clients are asked to bring last year’s tax returns, social security card, photo ID, and documents related to income, expenses, deductions, and healthcare coverage documentation to their appointment.
To find an AARP Foundation Tax-Aide site in your community during the tax season, call the toll-free number at 888-AARP-NOW (888-227-7669) or visit AARP.org/findtaxhelp.