AARP tax-aide

NORWAY — AARP is soliciting volunteers for its Tax-Aid program for the months of February, March and April. The service was cancelled in 2019 because AARP was unable to staff it. It is entirely volunteer staffed and jointly funded by AARP and the Internal Revenue Service.

“A volunteer tax return preparer does not need to have a professional background in accounting,” said Joan Jagolinzer, regional volunteer coordinator for the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program.  “In fact, AARP finds that the highest percentage have engineering backgrounds, followed by those in education. Much to my surprise, here in Maine, we have quite a few from medical fields.”

Tax-Aid volunteers should be comfortable learning new technologies and using tax return software programs like Intuit, Turbo Tax, and H&R Block. Anyone who has personal experience filing their own, or family and friends’ taxes, is encouraged to apply. Volunteer tax preparers are provided with training and receive IRS certification.

“We have about 300 volunteer preparers in Maine,” said Jagolinzer. “Unfortunately, we are finding that Oxford Hills — an area with one of the greatest needs for assistance, is difficult to staff.

“For several years volunteers drove as far as 40 miles to Norway. But in 2019 none could commit and we were unable to find replacements. The next closest location is in Bridgton, which can be as much as an hour’s drive for those who live north of Norway.”

In 2005, the first year of the program in Oxford Hills, Jagolinzer said about 40 returns were prepared by volunteers. By 2011 it jumped to more than 200, and in 2018 more than 400 federal tax returns were filed by Norway and surrounding community residents.

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide urgently seeks volunteer tax preparers to provide free income tax filing assistance to low-to-moderate income residents in Oxford Hills. Supplied image

For several years Jagolinzer has used space at Norway Memorial Library for AARP Tax-Aide volunteers to work out of but since there was no service in 2019 the room is now used for other uses.

“For 2020 I’ve been able to secure space at the Deering Community Center through the Paris Public Library,” said Jagolinzer. “The only day available will be on Wednesdays. So starting on February 5, every Wednesday residents of Oxford Hills communities will be able to get free tax return preparation. We will be available starting at 9 am until the library closes for the day.”

AARP Foundation Tax-Aid is staffed entirely by volunteers and jointly funded by AARP and the Internal Revenue Service. It provides free tax return preparation to low-to-moderate income residents.

“It takes a commitment of one day a week for less than three months,” said Jagolinzer. “Volunteers make a difference in their communities by helping taxpayers and their families, who might otherwise miss out on the tax credits and deductions they’ve earned.

“Beyond preparing returns, there are a variety of volunteer roles, including client facilitators, those who can provide technical and management assistance, even interpreters. Every level of experience is welcome.”

Jagolinzer oversees the Tax-Aid program in Oxford, Franklin, Cumberland and Androscoggin counties. She said that last year in Maine volunteers helped more than 25,000 people file their federal and state tax returns. The program is offered at approximately 60 sites in throughout Maine, including senior centers, libraries and other public locations.

“We have about 300 volunteers statewide,” she said. “But the need for help in Oxford Hills is critical. I really want to bring the program back to the area.”

If you are interested in volunteering with AARP Foundation Tax-Aid, please email Jagolinzer at: [email protected] to get started.


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