Lifestyle

Volunteers offer free tax help

For years, the Enumclaw area AARP Tax-Aide volunteers have been filling out tax forms and filing them through the mail.

This year, they’re going high tech, bringing in laptops and filing returns online.

“We were the last in our area still doing paper returns last year,” said Art Graham, one of five trained volunteers who help low- and middle-income taxpayers – with special attention for those 60 years old and older – prepare and file their tax returns for free.

This year, each tax return will be prepared on a computer. Clients will have the option to file electronically, or they can receive a paper copy and mail it, but Graham said e-filing has advantages. Those who file electronically get their return quicker. E-filers also receive responses from the Internal Revenue Service faster if there are issues that need clarification.

The move to computers will bring a couple of other changes, too.

Volunteers will no longer offer multiple days of assistance during the week. This year, it’s one day, Mondays, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., beginning Feb. 28 and running through April 11, and only at the Enumclaw Public Library. There will be no volunteers at the Enumclaw Senior Activity Center. Clients must schedule appointments by calling 360-825-2938.

“This year we’re also asking people when they do sign up to take a small intake form,” Enumclaw Library Director Bob Baer said. The form will help volunteers enter necessary data into the computer. Clients are also encouraged to come to appointments 10 minutes early for the same reason.

Graham said volunteers process between 150 and 200 returns a year in Enumclaw.

Baer said it’s a dedicated group of volunteers who go through extensive training and testing to provide the free service.

Graham admits tax forms can be intimidating.

The reward in the volunteer work, Graham said, comes from the clients when, “They think they’re going to pay a tax and we work their form and find out their going to get a refund.”

Those refunds, he said, usually come to the young people who didn’t take the Earned Income Tax Credit.

According to information from Baer, working families and individuals can receive larger refunds with the Earned Income Tax Credit. A qualified family with three children can receive up to $5,666. An individual worker without children could be eligible for a tax credit up to $457.

“It’s so complicated. Those don’t always get picked up,” Graham said.

“Sometimes those refunds add up to substantial money for people who need it.”

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