If your income falls in the low to middle range, you can get your tax returns prepared for free. How? By using AARP’s Tax-Aide Program.
What Is AARP Tax-Aide?
AARP Tax-Aide is the nation’s largest, volunteer-run tax preparation and assistance program. It’s part of the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Programs. It is available to taxpayers with low and moderate incomes and gives special attention to people age 60 and older.
How Low Does My Income Need to Be?
The IRS refers to moderate income as $50,000 or lower, but as an AARP Tax-Aide volunteer I can tell you this guideline is loosely followed. If you make $60,000/year, you’ll probably still be able to get help.
Not for Complex Returns
If you have rental properties, a Schedule C (not C-EZ), a complex Schedule D, a Schedule F, or an otherwise complicated tax return, then AARP Tax-Aide (or any VITA program) is not for you. You should hire an experienced tax preparer – preferably a CPA.
Where Can I Go for Help?
If you’d like to find an AARP Tax-Aide location near you, you can find one on their website starting in late January. If you can’t find an AARP Tax-Aide location near you, you can try calling 1-800-829-1040 to locate a VITA location near you.
How Well-Trained Are the Volunteers?
AARP does not let just anyone volunteer for the Tax-Aide program. All volunteers are required to undergo a thorough training course mandated and created by the IRS. They are well-trained in how to handle the 1040 Form and the standard schedules.
You may also find that many of the volunteers have a background in tax preparation or finance. For example, I volunteer and I’ve had two years of professional tax preparation experience. The local coordinator for my volunteer site was a CPA before she retired, and we had at least one other CPA volunteer last year. So the help you get may be quite good.
Can I File Electronically (E-file)?
Electronic filing with direct deposit is the fastest way to get your tax refund from the IRS. Most AARP Tax-Aide sites offer electronic filing with no charge to the taxpayer. Many more sites are gaining the capabilities to e-file every year.
What If I Just Have a Tax Question?
AARP offers free, year-round tax assistance via the Web for 24/7 help. You can find more information at the AARP Tax-Aide website.
I’d Like to Help! How Can I Volunteer?
If you’d like to volunteer with AARP’s Tax-Aide program to help with the 2009 tax season, there’s still plenty of time. Go to their website to read more about becoming a volunteer and to fill out a volunteer form.