Tax season is upon us, but the AARP Foundation is once again offering free tax services to the public. People can take advantage of the free service twice a week, on Mondays and Saturdays, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
And though the AARP Foundation is typically associated with senior citizens, the tax preparation is actually open to everyone.
Tax-Aide counselor and local coordinator Mike Delaune said, “You do not have to be a member of AARP, (and) you do not have to be a senior citizen.”
“There is really no income level,” Delaune continued, “as long as it’s in scope we can do it.”
The scope Delaune was referring to was what he and his tax counselors actually can do. This includes railroad retirement, earned income credit, mortgage interest and property taxes, charitable contributions, tuition and student loan interest, American Opportunity Tax Credit, and itemizations. They will also do self-employment, “As long as they don’t exceed a $5,000 loss,” Delaune clarified.
What tax counselors will not do include rental properties, farm income, unreported Social Security and Medicare, and complicated returns.
People are required to bring a picture ID, a Social Security card for everyone on the return, a copy of last year’s return, all tax documents, and a blank check for direct deposit. People are also required to tell tax counselors about any unreported income.
As for when to go, Delaune said, “The way I operate is, people can call to set up and appointment.” He will set appointments for the first six calls, and then people can walk in after that. The number to call is 254-654-0077.
“We can normally take up to 25 (clients), sometimes 30, every day,” he said.
“We usually average about 30 (clients) every tax day,” said volunteer Sandy Delaune. There were 31 people signed in on Saturday, and they were already on the second page by 11 a.m.
The process begins with signing in, and filling out an intake form. Then a counselor prepares the tax return, which then goes to a quality reviewer who goes over the return again, minimizing the chance for any errors.
Once this is done, the return is transmitted electronically to the IRS. If a refund is due, and direct deposit has been set up (with the blank check), that refund is generally seen in seven to ten days; refunds without direct deposit are mailed and seen in three to six weeks.
Last year they did 488 returns, and many of the people who did their returns through the AARP Foundation come back year after year. “We get probably 60% to 65% returnees,” Delaune said.
One of those returnees is Maria Rivera of Killeen. “I’ve been coming for the last three or four years,” she said. “It’s very helpful and beneficial to those who need it. All you have to do is show up. They’re a great group, a really good resource for everyone.”
Sandy Delaune said, “We try to keep the atmosphere upbeat. It’s bad enough to have to do your taxes; they can come here and let us alleviate some of that stress.”
Tax-Aide counselor Jeff Carrera said, “We are volunteers, we like helping people.”
Volunteers are thoroughly trained and experienced. “I’ve been doing it for 14 years,” Delaune said. “One of my counselors has been doing it for 25 years … We are IRS certified.”
“We’re always looking for volunteers,” Delaune continued. “(Interested parties) can go to aarp.org and sign up. They’ll contact you with the training days.”
As for tax preparation, Delaune said, “Be patient, don’t get in a hurry. I suggest calling and making an appointment; (without an appointment) you may wait two to three hours.
“If they get here and get on the list, we’ll see them the same day,” Delaune concluded.
The free tax preparation services are held at the Harker Heights Activities Center on Mondays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Appointments can be made by calling Delaune at the above phone number.
“We want to help people — for free!” Sandy Delaune said.